S O U T H    A T L A N T I C    I S L A N D S 

                                o f

    S A I N T   H E L E N A   a n d   T R I S T A N   D A   C U N H A


  M A L A Y S I A   /   S I N G A P O R E   /   I N D O N E S I A

           C A P E   T O W N,   S O U T H   A F R I C A   

                      2 0 0 0   /   2 0 0 1


   This travelogue is for a trip taken December 22, 2000 - February 10, 2001
to the South Atlantic Islands of St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha, as well as
parts of Malaysia, Singapore, Pulau Bintan (Indonesia), Cape Town (South
Africa) and a sail-by of Gough Island.
   The opinions expressed within are my own, and the information is subject
to change with the passage of time.

   Rates quoted are in the local currency of the country being discussed,
though often the US$ equivalent is also noted.  The approximate exchange
rates in effect during my trip were as follows (for one US$):

Malaysian Ringgit:                                 3.80
South African Rand:                                7.50 - 7.90
St. Helena Pound:                                  0.68
Tristan da Cunha:                                  0.68
   Note: the St. Helena Pound is tied to the British Pound, and the
   British Pound is used on Tristan da Cunha and on the RMS St. Helena.
                                @1=US$1.47 / US$1=@0.68
Singapore Dollar:                                  1.72
Indonesia Rupee                                9,288.00

The general country-by-country breakdown of the travelogue is as follows:

Malaysia:             Dec. 24 - Dec. 27, Feb. 1 - Feb. 4, Feb. 8 - Feb. 10
South Africa:         Dec. 27 - Jan. 1, Jan. 17, Jan. 30 - Feb. 1
Onboard the RMS:      Dec. 30, Jan. 1 - 5, Jan. 12 - 17, Jan. 18 - 23,
                      Jan. 25 - Jan. 30
St. Helena:           Jan. 5  - Jan. 12
Tristan da Cunha:     Jan. 23 - Jan. 25
Singapore:            Feb. 4  - Feb. 8
Indonesia:            Feb. 6
(plus a Gough Island sail-by on Jan. 26)



   For quite some time now, I've always wanted to visit the islands of
Tristan da Cunha and St. Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean.  I'm not sure
why exactly -- and though I certainly had more than enough opportunity to
think up a clever reply to the question with all the times it was asked, I
suppose the answer is simply that I have always been curious about what life
is like on remote islands.  Most of my fellow travellers aboard the British
Royal Mail Ship RMS St. Helena had specific purposes for visiting the
islands: interest in Napoleon (who died in exile while on St. Helena),
botanists interested in endemic flora or fauna, journalists writing stories
for various South African magazines, or people simply visiting family or
friends.  I had none of that though, and for better or worse, decided to
approach this trip with a fresh mind and only a minimal amount of pre-trip
research.  On one level, this meant that I perhaps didn't know every
interesting fact about a place, but it also allowed me a clean slate,
without having in my head old, inaccurate accounts of life on these islands.
   One important thing to note is that the impressions conveyed in this
travelogue are that of a short-term visitor, and should be viewed as such. 
By no means am I an expert on these countries, nor do I pretend to be.  With
such a limited amount of time, I had a chance only to scratch the surface of
these fascinating places, and the views and opinions expressed in this text
are nothing more than my own personal thoughts -- which are of course
completely subjective.  Though a travelogue can only hope to represent a
brief slice of time at a particular place, I hope that through these pages I
can give the reader a feel for what it was like to pay a visit to these
interesting little corners of the world.

   My trip this year was really the conclusion of a trip started last year:
in 1999/2000, I booked passage on board the RMS with plans to visit not only
St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha, but Africa as well (as the RMS stops in
Cape Town).  However six weeks before I was to leave, the ship's crankshaft
broke off the coast of France, causing Curnow Shipping to delay its St.
Helena sailing (ultimately having to rent an alternate vessel) and cancel
the Tristan da Cunha trip altogether.  Deciding to postpone the islands for
the following year, I wound up having almost three months to explore Africa
in 1999/2000... and finally making it to St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha
this year, I was also able to see a bit of Malaysia and Singapore as well.


Dec. 22/23/24: Los Angeles / Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)
	The day started early at 6:00am — not with travelling, but with a full day at home.  
My Malaysian Airlines flight wouldn't be leaving LAX until 11:35pm, but with so much to do 
before being away for seven weeks, I had a full, non-stop day.
	Arriving at LAX in the evening, I found myself waiting in a line typical for a holiday 
period, but once checked in, I had plenty of time to walk around and explore the Tom 
Bradley International terminal.  Upstairs, I stumbled upon the internet kiosks on the upper 
level... though they're no longer free (there's now a 10c/min charge), back in December, if 
you looked at an ad for 30 seconds, you were given 10 minutes of free web surfing time — 
and if you just kept the cursor moving, you didn't even have to look at the ad.  For 20 
minutes I was able to check my temporary web-based email account (making sure it was 
retreiving messages forwarded from my shell account) and look up the weather forecast for 
Kuala Lumpur: hot, with thunderstorms.  Soon it was time to board, and with it being the 
holiday season, the line to enter the gate area stretched the entire length of the terminal.
	My flight this year was on Malaysian Airlines, and while they don't quite reach the 
standards of a top-tier carrier such a Singapore, they're not a bad choice.  Malaysia's in-
flight entertainment system is quite good, with each passenger (even in economy class) 
having their own LCD TV, with a choice of 11 video channels as well as Super Nintendo 
video games (though most of the controllers had been worn to the point where they no 
longer worked).  By taking MAS I was also able to stopover in Malaysia (something I very 
much wanted to do), but the one drawback was the amount of time spent on board various 
aircraft: just to get to Cape Town meant a routing of LAX - Taipei - Kuala Lumpur - 
Johannesburg - Cape Town — and as we took off a half-hour late at midnight, the pilot 
announced that due to strong headwinds, we'd need to stop in Japan as well to re-fuel.
	It would be 11hrs 30mins to KIX (Osaka, Japan) where we'd make our unscheduled 
stop to re-fuel, but I passed the time by watching various movies — including an interesting 
Japanese one called "Space Travellers", about three guys robbing a bank who borrow names 
from a ficticious anime series (many of the bank employees and customers wind up joining 
them in the charade, though in the end it eventually goes bad).  At 5:00am local time we 
landed in Osaka to refuel for 70 minutes, and as we left to continue onto Taipei, the horizon 
was just starting to show some light.
	2hrs 45mins later in Taipei, we were allowed to disembark the plane and walk 
around the airport for an hour.  At the duty-free shop, I bought a telephone card (US$3.50) 
to make some quick calls home and a Coke (US$2) and slice of cake at the restaurant.  After 
an hour it was time to re-board the aircraft, though once onboard there was an hour delay, 
as the bags of two passengers who didn't return had to be found and removed.
	The flight from Taipei to Kuala Lumpur was an additional 4hrs 20mins, but during 
the flight I had a chance to peruse a local KL newspaper... some of the stories making news: 
it's now the Hari Raya period (the end of Ramadan when many people take a holiday), and 
an article urged people leaving the city to visit their hometowns to secure their homes 
against theft... in recent school tests, English proficiency has gone down (Malay is the 
country's official language), and another article urged readers using ATMs to keep alert for 
people wearing helmets nearby, as there has been a lot of ATM crime with robbers getting 
away on motorbikes...
	Finally landing at KLIA airport in Malaysia, I approached the 24hr tourist information 
counter for some maps and information, and received the first taste of Malaysia's cold-
shoulder attitude from the two Tourism Malaysia ladies (wearing traditional Muslim scarves) 
behind the counter.  This cold shoulder was surprisingly consistant with every Malay 
Tourism official I encountered, and perhaps someone should remind them that if they want 
to encourage tourism (as their brochures claim), they definitely need to change their 
	This demeanor isn't just prevalant with Tourism Malaysia officials though — it seems 
to be the general attitude of most Muslim Malays in the country.  Thinking this first 
encounter was just an abbaration (as I never felt such a cold shoulder in any other Muslim 
country), I didn't give it much thought (except to wonder how they were given jobs in the 
tourism sector) — but I soon began to see that this cold disposition is typical of the 
country's Malay population, and is in stark contrast to the much friendlier attidute of 
Malaysia's Chinese and Indian population.  Later in the trip, I felt none of this coldness from 
Muslims in Singapore or Indonesia, yet only once (on my very last night) did I ever feel 
anything but coldness from Muslim Malays.  In Febrary there was an article in a local 
English-language paper about an organization boycotting American companies due to the 
US' support of Israel, listing many of the boycotted companies and giving out the boycotting 
organization's address and phone number as if it was a paid advertisement instead of a 
news article — so perhaps there is a bit of anti-American sentiment in the country, but if I 
stop to politely ask someone on the street for directions, how does that person know I'm 
American and not German or Canadian?  As much as I hate to write something like this, I 
would be omitting an important observation if I didn't — for throughout my time in Malaysia 
there was a clear, consistant difference in attitude between local Muslim Malays and their 
Chinese and Indian neighbors.
	After picking up a tourist map, I withdrew some local money from an ATM so I could 
buy a telephone card.  One important thing to note is that phone cards sold at the airport do 
NOT work on phones outside the airport and are pretty much a waste of money.  Making 
things even more inconvenient, normal Telekom Malaysia cards aren't sold anywhere inside 
KLIA.  Not knowing this however, I bought two cards (MR20/US$5.26 each) at the nearby 
shop — and though I eventually used them on subsequent trips to the airport, they were 
virtually useless for my stay in Malaysia.
	KLIA is a large, new airport... you must take an automated "Aero Train" from one 
terminal to the other (where baggage claim/immigration is located), and seeing the cloudy 
weather and wet ground outside during the short ride, I knew I'd be needing my umbrella 
later.  While reading the local newspaper on board the plane, I found a quote from a recent 
letter-to-the-editor in which the reader complained that it took over an hour for him to get 
his bags at KLIA.  The paper then published a response from MAS disputing his claim, so I 
thought I'd time it myself today to see how they did... sure enough, it was indeed slightly 
over one hour from the time the bags were being unloaded off the aircraft to the time they 
rolled down onto the carrosel (even the flight attendants were waiting) — and my student 
violin (which I had checked in with a "FRAGILE" sticker) now had a collapsed bridge (I fixed 
it right there in baggage claim, but it wasn't reassuring).
	KLIA is located far from downtown Kuala Lumpur, and with no light rail yet 
connecting the airport to the city (it's currently being built), the only real choice other than a 
taxi is the Airport Shuttle bus, at RM25/US$6.58 each way (a price average for other world 
cities, but expensive for Malaysia).  The bus takes you from KLIA to a half-way terminal, 
where you transfer to a smaller van to take you into the city.
	Just minutes after the bus pulled away from KLIA, the rain began falling — so hard 
and heavy that motorcyclists were taking shelter under bridges until the rain passed.  From 
KLIA into town there's very little to see: palm oil plantations, some open spaces with weeds, 
and new cookie-cutter housing tracts with row after row of identical townhomes.  People 
drive on the left in Malaysia, and seem to be extra cautious on the toll expressway — though 
once on normal city streets, drivers here are just as crazy and reckless as the rest of Asia.  
As we approached the hotel the rain stopped, and for the next few days in Kuala Lumpur, 
the weather seemed to follow the same pattern: clear morning skies, cloudy afternoons, and 
rain from around 3:30pm-6:00pm.
	Tonight, I'd be staying at the "Seasons View" hotel on Jalan Alor ("Jalan" means 
"street"), one block in from the expensive shopping area of Jalan Bukit Bintang.  A great 
location, Jalan Alor is walking distance to the fancy shops and hotels on Jalan Bukit 
Bintang, and every night between 6:00pm-6:00am the street comes alive with hawker food-
stalls, making it (along with Chinatown) one of the best places to come for dinner.  There are 
a handful of low-cost hotels along Jalan Alor (it's not that long of a street), but the only two 
worth looking at are the Seasons View and the slightly-more-expensive Hotel Nova down the 
street.  Both are good places to stay, and while I stayed at the Seasons View at the start of 
my trip, I opted for the Hotel Nova at the end just to try someplace different.
	The Seasons View is a small, relatively new (1998) boutique hotel that's Malaysian-
Chinese run, with most of the guests also being Malaysian-Chinese. I found out about it by 
stumbling across a Japanese-language web page on inexpensive area hotels 
(http://lovebagus.net/hotels/jalan_alor.html), though there is also a special page with 
pictures on the Seasons View itself: (http://lovebagus.net/hotels/seasonsview.html).  The 
place is cheap and clean, and all rooms have air-con, color TV, and an in-room tea/coffee 
set.  The hotel uses a computerized reservation system, so a few weeks before leaving on my 
trip, I decided to call up and book a room (as it often fills up if you don't book in advance).  
There are a few different types of rooms available (including nice ones with balconys 
overlooking Jalan Alor), but I opted for the cheapst: Room #215 in the middle of the building 
near the elevator — it has no windows, but it also meant I wasn't bothered with street noise 
at night.  The price with breakfast was RM63++ (which equals RM72/US$18.95 when taxes 
are added), but if you stay at least three nights, the price comes down to RM68/US$17.89 
per night including all taxes and breakfast (there's also an RM40 "day rate" according to the 
sign outside).  Though I'd need to leave for the airport at 10:00pm on the 26th, I thought it'd 
be nice to have a place to shower and relax in before the flight, so I decided to reserve the 
room for three nights instead of two.  Walking into the Seasons View room that evening, 
there was a buzzing noise coming from the bathroom — so I went down to ask if I could have 
another room.  Telling me they were fully-booked for the night, the receptionist sent a man 
upstairs to fix the noise (the bathroom ceiling fan just needed to be tightened), and 
everything was fine.
	After setting my bag down, I decided to go out for a walk down Jalan Bukit Bintang.  
The rain had stopped, and at 5:30pm on December 24th, there were plenty of of foreigners 
out walking around the area, with its Planet Hollywood, Marriot Hotel, and trendy shops and 
restaurants (many advertising special Christmas Eve dinners).  As well, plenty of local young 
Malaysians were busy shopping and hanging out, with the streets quite crowded.  At one 
outdoor restaurant, employees wearing Santa hats were listening intently to their boss give 
them instructions, and the stores along the street were full of Christmas decorations and 
sale banners, even though Malaysia is predominantly a Muslim country.  Walking into the 
Marriot, I tried to take the elevator up for a look at the street below, but as a key-card is 
required past the 6F, I decided the view wouldn't be worth any further effort.  Besides the 
area's fancier restaurants, there are more modest choices as well (from KFC to the food 
courts in the large malls, where chicken & rice was going for RM3.80/US$1), but I opted to 
wait for the Jalan Alor food stalls to open, as such stalls usually have better food.
	In the area are some large shopping malls, including BB Plaza and Lot 10, as well as 
plenty of smaller choices.  There are a couple of "factory outlet" shops selling apparel 
overruns, though their prices are pretty much the same as what you'd pay in the US for 
such items (in fact, many of the clothes carried Mervyns and GAP labels on them).
	While apparel is no cheaper than low-cost shops in the US (and more expensive than 
neighboring Singapore), the one area where Malaysia is a shopper's paradise is in the 
bootleg intellectual property arena: pirate music CDs, Video CDs (VCDs), DVDs, and 
computer CD-ROMs are everywhere — not just at the outside markets, but in bright, well-lit 
shops in the large shopping complexes all over the country (VCD — or "Video Compact Disc" 
is a common video format in Asia which uses older MPEG-1 technology for a picture quality 
about the same as VHS tape.  Though the format is not popular in the US, many DVD 
players can play VCD discs).  The fact that these bootleg items are sold so openly is 
surprising, but unlike Singapore or Hong Kong, the authorities in Malaysia do nothing to 
stop it.  In fact, there was a recent (confusing) newspaper article about piracy of CDs and 
VCDs in Malaysia, quoting a Trade Enforcement deputy-director saying "we cannot have 
laws to stop the public from buying pirated products" — before mentioning some recent 
raids which have taken place.  If the authorities were serious though, the bootlegs would be 
found only in quiet street markets, not in dozens of high-profile shops at just about every 
fancy shopping mall in the country.  Below are excerpts from the article:
	  The local entertainment industry lost an estimated 60%, or RM300
	  million (US$78.9 million) out of last year's half-billion ringgit
	  market for CDs and VCDs to profiteers and pirated products.  This has
	  prompted the industry to launch another nationwide campaign through
	  Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Sri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi against pirated
	  products at Dataran Merdeka on Feb. 23.  Domestic Trade Enforcement
	  deputy director-general Abdul Rahman Ghazali said full cooperation
	  from the general public is still needed to weed out illegal producers.
	  "We cannot have laws to stop the public from buying pirated products,
	  and the best approach is to educate and reason with them the
	  undesirable long-term effects of doing so," said Rahman.  "We have
	  come to know that pirated products are most popular during festive
	  seasons.  This has encouraged their makers to take advantage of the
	  festivities, and we are forced to increase checks during these
	  periods" ... He said major urban areas like Penang, Ipoh, and Klang
	  Valley remained top targets for illegal profiteers making quality
	  copies of originals, with poorer makes sold in rural areas and states
	  like Sabah and Sarawak.  Rahman was speaking at a news conference on
	  the latest seizures made by his department, together with the
	  Recording Industry Association of Malaysia (RIM) general manager,
	  T.S. Lam.  Rahman said recent raids showed that illegal producers are
	  able to make pirated discs from homes and in luxury apartments, and no
	  longer in factory-type premises, using compact duplicating equipment
	  and stick-on labels...
	The prices of these bootleg products varies depending upon where you shop and how 
hard you bargain, but the general asking prices are: RM10/US$2.63 for a music CD, RM6-
RM10 (US$1.58-US$2.63) for pirate CD-ROMs (including ones with multiple programs such 
as Adobe Photoshop 6.0, Microsoft Office, and Windows ME on the same disc), and RM6-
RM7 (US$1.58-US$1.84) for VCD videos of the latest Hollywood movies — available on 
bootleg VCD literally only days after they've premiered in US theatres (in fact, most places 
selling VCD movies display a list of the past week's Top-10 US box office — with the titles all 
available for purchase on pirate VCD for RM6-RM7).  There are legitimately-licensed VCDs of 
course (usually in the RM10-RM35 price range, often with stickers urging people not to buy 
pirated goods), but the vast majority of people just buy the bootlegs — and with VCD players 
selling for as little as RM199/US$52.36, the format remains popular.  Though VCD is still 
the format of choice for Asia, pirate all-region DVDs are starting to appear as well, going for 
RM20/US$5.26, though the selection of DVD movies isn't nearly as large and up-to-date as 
	After buying a large soft-serve cone at McDonald's (RM1.50/US39c for a large, 
RM1/US26c for a small) I wanted to make a phone call, but finding a working card phone in 
Malaysia is something easier said than done, as most are usually broken.  Finding one 
inside the Federal Hotel, I soon realized that the cards I bought at KLIA wouldn't work on 
phones outside the airport, though one of the staff at the hotel mentioned I could buy 
normal cards at a 7-11.  Walking back to the 7-11 on Jalan Alor (across the street from the 
Seasons View), I was told they were sold out — so I walked into another nearby shop where 
the Chinese cashier sold me a "Time Kontact" phone card.
	"Time Kontact" is a private company which sells disposable scratch-off cards where 
you dial a toll-free number (1-800-182-661) and enter your card's number to place the call.  
Available in different amounts, I first bought a RM20/U$5.26 card to try (minus 5% tax, it 
had RM19 worth of calls), and even with problems in reaching Time Kontact's network from 
time to time, they were still more reliable than the constantly-broken card phones on the 
street — and as Time Kontact would work from coin phones as well, I wound up going 
through quite a few of the cards.  Upon first trying to use them that evening though, I kept 
receiving a "Sorry, all lines are busy" recording... so when someone told me that the 
newsstand next to the KFC sells "normal" Telekom Malaysia phone cards, I went over to buy 
one.  At first the Indian guy there thought I wanted to buy another "Time" card, but after 
explaining to him that I wanted to buy a Telekom Malaysia card, he sold me one for 
RM10/US$2.63.  Finally stumbling upon a working card phone, I tried to call my brother 
overseas — only to receive a recording saying "sorry, that number is not recognized."  
Dialing slowly, I eventually did get through, though Telekom Malaysia card phones are 
almost always broken in one way or another — and some (on purpose or by accident) block 
calls to Time Kontact's 800 access number.
	After walking around Jalan Bukit Bintang for a while, I returned to the hotel at 
8:00pm to drop the camera off and look around Jalan Alor.  Most of the food stalls along the 
street stay open late — with some staying open throughout the night.  The stalls were 
already quite active, and at around 8:30pm, bootleg CD/VCD tables were being set up as 
well (with "The Emperor's New Groove" and "Unbrekable" already for sale).  Jalan Alor has 
"normal" restaurants as well as the portable food stalls, and deciding to try a few different 
things, I ordered two pork baos (RM0.90/US24c) from a stall as well as six pieces of Dim 
Sum and chicken-rice from the "One Plus One" restaurant (RM7.50/US$1.97).  Sitting down 
at an outside plastic table to relax for the first time in 48 hours, I took out my journal and 
began jotting down some notes in it between bites.
	At 9:55pm I walked back to the hotel room and turned on the TV while washing 
clothes in the shower.  Looking at the TV listings in the newspaper, it seems that Malaysia 
takes their TV ratings seriously: "U"=general viewing for all ages, "18SG"=for 18+ with non-
excessive violent/horrifying scenes, "18SX"=for 18+ with non-excessive sex scenes, 
"18PA"=for 18+ with political/religious/counter-culture elements, and "18PL"=for 18+ with a 
combination of two or more elements.
	Leaving the clothes to dry in the shower, I went to sleep at 11:30pm — the end of a 
very long day.
	Misc. observation: many bookstores in Malaysia have Japanese manga (comics) for 
sale in both Chinese and Malay editions (two I happened to notice were "Doraemon" and 
"Chibi Maruko-chan").

Dec. 25: Kuala Lumpur
	Waking up around 5:00am to the faint sound of morning prayers (I'm glad I had a 
room without windows), I went back to sleep until 7:40am when the alarm went off.  Going 
downstairs for the included breakfast at 8:00am, I was asked to wait 10 minutes as they 
were just getting ready, but returning a few minutes later, the eggs were already cold (you're 
offered either a western or local breakfast — I chose western, which included two eggs, 
toast, a slice of meat, some baked beans, and tea).
	It was a beautiful clear morning (though hot and humid), and by 8:40am I was out 
walking towards Chinatown.  Most shops were still closed, but the area certainly looked 
promising for later exploration.  Continuing onto the Central Market, the shops there were 
closed as well (the guard said they would open at 10:00am), so I decided to head to the 
eastern end of the city where the museums and parks are located.
	Arriving at the National Mosque first, I had a look inside (being given a black robe to 
cover my inappropriate clothing — I was wearing shorts).  It's large, modern, has a pool 
around the building, and tour groups were already flowing out from their buses en masse to 
have a look.
	From the Mosque I walked over to the Deer Park, but the entrance gate was locked.  
A sign mentioned the opening time was 10:00am on public holidays (Christmas is still 
considered a public holiday in Malaysia), but even though it was just about 10:00am and I 
could hear a radio blaring from down below somewhere, the gate was still shut.  Deciding to 
return later, I walked to the nearby Orchid Garden.  Free most days (but RM1/US26c on 
public holidays), I paid my RM1 and had a quick look around.  It's nice enough, but nothing 
special, so after a few minutes, I returned back to the Deer Park at 10:15am, where the 
guard finally came by to open the gate.  Admission is free, and for RM0.50/US13c you can 
buy 5 slices of bread to feed the deer and rabbits with.  Though small, the park is a nice 
idea, and the tame deer are more than willing to approach you in hopes of receiving some 
food (a Chinese family with a young boy was having fun feeding the deer that morning).
	Bird Park is nearby, but as it has an entrance fee of RM5/US$1.32 and a "camera" 
fee of RM2/US53c, I wasn't sure whether or not to bother with it.  Asking three Americans 
leaving the park if it was worth it, their reply was "if you like birds it is" — so I had a look.  
The park is quite large with many different areas covered with overhead netting to keep the 
birds in while giving them more space, and plenty of species from peacocks to flamingos to 
pelicans to storks roam the grounds.  Though I'm not really all that interested in birds, the 
park was enjoyable nonetheless, and if birds are one of your hobbies, you can definitely 
spend a lot more time here than I did (one bird in a cage even volunteered a "Hi!" and a few 
cat-calls as I walked by).  Leaving the park, I passed the Americans I had talked to earlier 
(an older couple from South Carolina with their mid-30s daughter), who asked if I enjoyed 
the park.  Walking with them to nearby Butterfly Park, we chatted for a bit: the daughter 
has been working at a hospital in Saipan, and the parents had come over to meet her in 
	Butterfly Park is quite nice (RM10/US$2.63 with camera fee), having not only large 
display areas catagorizing different types of butterflies, but a large enclosed area complete 
with pond, where plenty of butterflies flitter around.  With both astethic and scientific 
aspects available here, most people will find it worth their while.
	After looking around Butterfly Park, I left to continue on my own.  With it being so 
hot and humid this morning I had a suspicion that rain might come later in the afternoon, 
so deciding to continue with the outdoor sights while the weather was still good, I walked 
over to Merdeka Square, a large public green area in the center of town.  Though the Square 
holds historical significance, unless there's a special event occuring it's just a large green 
square — though the area around it has many old colonial-style buildings left over from the 
days when the British were in Malaysia.
	From Merdeka Square I started walking north to find Little India, beginning to notice 
how poor street signage can be in KL — there are many intersections where only one street's 
name is displayed, and other intersections (including one in the Jalan Bukit Bintang area) 
have the same street name posted for both directions, making it impossible to tell which of 
the two streets is actually the one named on the sign.
	Passing by the Masjid Jamek Mosque, I was only able to look at the buildings from 
the outside (even with a black robe on), though it didn't look as interesting as the National 
Mosque.  Continuing on, I soon found myself at a large outdoor marketplace that stretched 
along Jalan Masjid India and some nearby parallel streets.  I'm not sure if it was a daily 
market or if it occurs only on public holidays, but the streets were filled with stalls selling 
everything you could imagine including clothes, fabric, watches, candy, food, shirts, 
backpacks, and incense (no-name polo shirts were going for RM18/US$4.74).  Continuing 
down Pasar Malam (with stalls in the middle of the street), I also looked in at some of the 
permanent shops that line the road.  Stopping to change a roll of film next to a picture frame 
shop (on a street filled with hawker stalls), the Indian man working there asked where I was 
from, and we started talking for a bit.  As it was a normal shop (not a hawker stall), I said 
"you're open today!" and he replied "if I don't work, I don't eat!" — though he seemed to be 
doing quite well.  Like many of their Asian neighbors, Malaysians are extremely pushy and 
shove all the time (especially in crowds and marketplaces like this).  Though it's something 
I'm used to when travelling in Asia, when I later returned to Malaysia after visiting St. 
Helena, the difference between the two places (one where you'll get shoved and pushed 
constantly, and the other where people will be happy to simply wait until you've moved 
aside) was quite pronounced.
	When finished at the marketplace, I decided to head for the tall Menara KL Tower, 
which like the CN Tower in Toronto, offers good views of the city.  However even though I 
could see the Tower in front of me, the major road I was on (Jalan Ampang) didn't go 
through to the Tower — so I had to walk all the way around and go out of the way to find the 
one road that actually did lead to the Tower (on the last stretch of the road, I passed a group 
of monkeys sitting on the fence, looking for handouts).
	Waiting in line to buy tickets at 2:15pm, when I finally reached the front of the line, a 
tour leader cut right in front of me without a thought, ordering sixty tickets for his group.  
The young guy behind the counter was happy to serve him first with no apology to me, and 
as each ticket had to be individually printed, it was taking quite a while.  After a few 
minutes, a second cashier opened and motioned me over to him to buy my ticket, but this 
didn't exactly give me a good feeling about the place.
	Built in 1996 after four years of construction, the Menara Tower is the fourth tallest 
tower of its type in the world — and though it was beginning to get hazy outside (and was 
now not the best weather for viewing), it was still worth the RM8/US$2.11 admission 
charge.  There is a revolving restaurant at the top, but advance reservations (made 
downstairs in the lobby) are required, insuring no one sets foot in it unless they actually 
plan to dine there.  According to the menu downstairs, the cheapest options for dinner were 
RM85-RM95/US$22.37-US$25.00 — extremely expensive by Malaysian standards, so at the 
top, I opted simply for an ice-cream at the snack bar, resting for a bit to write a few notes in 
my journal after taking in the 360-degree view.  Up on top were three Telekom Malaysia card 
phones, and as was proving to be the norm, none of them worked correctly.
	Back down walking into town again, I stopped at a Shell petrol station along the way 
and had my first "100 PLUS" soda — a "refresh" drink made by Coca-Cola that's pretty 
much a carbonated version of Pocari Sweat.
	It was now cloudy, and a few drops of rain were beginning to fall.  As I passed the 
Telekom Malaysia Museum I decided to have a look, as I've always been interested in 
telephones and the sign outside indicated it was open until 5:30pm even on public holidays.  
As I tried to enter though, the lady at the gate said simply "closed today!" (I guess I should 
have expected this from Telekom Malaysia).  Expecting the few drops of rain to soon turn 
into a downpour, I headed back for the indoor Central Market now that everything would be 
open, and walking past Masjid Jamek and Merdeka Square, found it just as it started to 
	Inside the Central Market are various shops of all types, mostly for tourists, but a few 
for locals as well — and everything from Malaysian arts & crafts to souvenir T-shirts to 
violins can be found here.  Near the entrance was a booth with a large crowd gathered in 
front of it: the police had set up a graphic display (complete with gory video) to warn people 
of the dangers of drinking and driving, but instead of being scared by it, locals were glued to 
the screen, watching it as pure entertainment.  After spending some time looking around 
both levels, I was about to leave just as the sky opened up and heavy, pouring rain began to 
fall, complete with thunder and lightning.  People outside ran into the Market for shelter, 
and I realized I'd be stuck here for a while.
	Walking over to the corner of the market where the phones are located, I managed to 
place an overseas call using my Time Kontact card before walking over to buy a set of made-
in-USA earplugs from a nearby shop (for my upcoming trip on the ship, as I'd be sharing a 
cabin with someone else).  After buying a newspaper from the downstairs newsstand 
(RM1/US26c), I went up to the 2F food court to sit down, read the paper, and have a late 
lunch (a good beef/rice bowl served in a clay pot for only RM3.40/US89c).
	 Looking through the paper, I couldn't seem to find any cinema times, so when 
finished eating, I returned back to the newsstand to check inside another English-language 
paper — but still couldn't find any.  The man at the newsstand said "they should be in 
there," and helped me look through all the English papers he had, but couldn't explain why 
none he sold had any cinema times.  "I guess not today," he finally said — but just a bit 
later while walking around, I noticed a man reading today's Sun (one of the English-
language newspapers I had just searched through).  When I asked him why no papers list 
the cinema times, he instantly turned the page to show me the cinema listings (the section 
must have been missing from the papers from the newsstand).  Looking down, the man 
pointed out the times for the cinema at the Central Market annex (just across the street), 
with the two choices being "102 Dalmations" at 4:45pm and "The 6th Day" at 4:55pm.  With 
the time now 4:55pm, I asked the man for directions and thanked him as I left (the cinema 
is located upstairs in the building directly opposite the Market).  With the rain coming down 
hard, I was out in it for just a few seconds as I darted across the street to the annex building 
to catch "The 6th Day" with Arnold Schwartzenegger (RM8/US$2.11).  Though the movie 
was pretty bad, it was interesting to note the almost-empty theatre (with only 3 other people 
inside), probably due to the fact that someone could already buy and own the movie on 
pirate VCD for less than the cost to come to the cinema and see it once (as both "102 
Dalmations" and "The 6th Day" were hot sellers at the VCD stalls).  The small theatre had 
only mono sound, but the projection was sharp and wasn't bad for the price. The movie was 
shown with both Malay and Chinese subtitles, but just as the ending credits began to roll, 
the projector was immediately turned off (the norm for much of Asia).
	When the movie finished, I walked back to the main Market building for one more 
quick look (the rain had now become only a light drizzle).  Up on the 2F was a shop selling 
bootleg CD-ROMs, but they were asking RM20... stalls in nearby Chinatown ask only RM10, 
and stores elsewhere in the country asked only RM4-6 for the same CD-ROMs.  Also on 
display were plenty of bootleg PlayStation games, as well as pirate GameBoy cartridges 
(including a "19-in-1" cartridge for an extremely expensive RM189/US$49.74).
	As the rain was letting up, I decided to leave the Central Market and head to nearby 
Chinatown.  It was now about 7:15pm, and the area around Jalan Petaling was bustling.  In 
the evening, the area is closed to traffic as stalls set up in the middle of the street to sell 
everything from fake Rolex watches (RM50/US$13.16 first price — I didn't bother bargaining 
as I wasn't interested) to souvenir T-shirts (RM8/US$2.11) to pirate VCDs and CD-ROMs.  
Some pirate CD-ROM stalls were charging RM15-RM20 (trying to grab the tourists before 
they had a chance to compare prices elsewhere), though one stall was selling everything for 
RM10 (later in Penang, the going rate for the same CD-ROMs was RM7 — which was 
voluntarily dropped to RM6).  While most stalls concentrated on VCDs (at the usual 
RM7/US$1.84 price — though occasinally you could find them for RM5-RM6 elsewhere in 
the city), a few had a small selection of pirate all-region DVDs as well for RM25/US$6.58 (in 
Penang, these DVDs were RM20/US$5.26).  On the pirate VCD front, the stalls already had 
for sale "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" — a movie which opened theatrically in the US only 3 
days earlier, and most stalls have a VCD player and TV set so you can verify that the disc 
works properly — though none of the stalls selling DVDs had a DVD player to test the discs 
on.  One stand selling cheap knockoff watches had one with a "RM238" price on it... I 
stopped just to peer at it, and as I walked away, the price suddenly dropped to RM50, 
RM20, and even RM10.  Though there are dozens of stalls, most are usually selling the same 
items, so bargain hard and don't be afraid to walk away.
	Besides the stalls and small shops of Chinatown, there are two very good indoor 
shopping malls to check out: S&M Plaza (the better of the two), and the neighboring Koto 
Raya Mall.  One of the many interesting stores in S&M is a Japanese-themed shop ("Kyun") 
where everything the store offers (candy, clothes hangers, coffee mugs, marbles — even little 
beckoning cats) is sold for RM5.99/US$1.58 (though most items were labelled in Japanese, 
the majority of them came from China).  Entering Kyun to look for a plastic cup (as I had 
forgotten to take one with me from home), they had only ceramic ones for sale — but visiting 
the large S&M sundries store upstairs next, I found a set of 4 plastic cups for only 
RM2.80/US74c (needing only one, I wound up just throwing the other three away).  At the 
cashier's ready to pay for it, a local teenager walked up with a pair of earings, cutting right 
in front of me to pay for them, and the Malay cashier waited on her first.  Returning to the 
store a few minutes later, I also bought two ultra-tiny, made-in-Malaysia "Winnie-the-Pooh" 
spiral notebooks (RM0.90/24c each) which I would use everyday on my trip to jot down 
notes while out walking and exploring.
	S&M Plaza has a nice large supermarket upstairs with good prices on food, and 
they're the cheapest place in the area to buy sodas from (the typical price for a normal can 
of soda is RM1.20 from a vendor or machine, RM1.40 at a 7-11, and RM1.50-RM1.80 at a 
restaurant — though a "special" soda such as 100 PLUS will usually be 10c-20c more.  At 
the S&M Plaza supermarket, normal sodas were RM1 warm, RM1.10 cold, and only RM1.20 
for a cold 100 PLUS).  For a change of pace however, I tried a soursop soda from a vending 
machine in the hall (RM1.20/US32c).
	One of the ground-level shops of S&M was selling Q+Q watches (the low-end range of 
Japan CBM Corp. — decent, inexpensive watches).  While in Jordan last year, I picked up a 
bootleg "O+O" (not Q+Q) watch with traditional Arabic numbers on the face for about 
US$3.50, and here in this shop, found the "real" Q+Q model of the same watch for 
RM39.95/US$10.51.  Q+Q watches can be found all over Malaysia and Singapore, but it 
pays to shop and compare before buying... though many shops wanted RM50-RM60 for the 
same watches this one shop was asking RM39.95 for, I later found them elsewhere in 
Malaysia selling for RM29.
	The basement of S&M has some good CD-ROM/VCD shops, including one I found 
the next day selling Japanese animation on pirate all-region DVDs (including the Shin 
Kimagure Orange Road movie and the Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli films). These movies 
aren't legitimately available on DVD yet even in Japan (I own them on LaserDisc), though 
the pirate DVDs have Chinese subtitles on them (I'm not sure if the subtitles can be turned 
off or not as the sales clerk wasn't sure herself, and the store had no DVD player to try them 
out on).
	Many shopping malls (including S&M Plaza) have video arcades in them, and though 
I had just read a newspaper article mentioning that arcades would be forced to close their 
doors under new rules scheduled to take effect January 1st, when I returned back to 
Malaysia in February, the video arcades were still open and operating.
	Chinatown is one of the best places in the city to have dinner, and though the bao 
stalls are RM1 here (as opposed to RM0.90 elsewhere), the food is still cheap, and the sheer 
amount of choice is worth the trip.  One type of stall found here (but not on Jalan Alor) 
offers dozens of different types of skewers (with raw fish, pork, meat, chicken, etc.) which 
you choose and cook yourself right at the table by dipping them into a pot of boiling water 
for 30 seconds.  Fresh and incredibly delicious, most are only RM1.50/US39c each, though 
a few (on shorter sticks so the cashier knows to charge you more) are RM3.00/US79c — for 
items such as real abalone.  As all of the outside tables were taken, I was seated next to a 
Chinese family who was just finishing... after they left, a Singapore Chinese family sat down 
next to me, and we talked for a bit while eating.  For nine tasty skewers, the total was only 
RM13.50/US$3.55, and I was stuffed.
	When finished, I walked back to the Seasons View via Jalan Pudu and Jalan Bukit 
Bintang.  As the 7-11 on Jalan Bukit Bintang had a huge line, I left to visit the less-crowded 
7-11 on Jalan Alor (across the street from the Seasons View) to pick up a some soda waters 
(RM1.40 — though I later discovered the independent convenience store on the Seasons 
View side of the street was selling them cold for RM1.20).  Too nice of an evening to sit 
inside, I sat down at one of the outdoor tables for the Seasons View cafe (they didn't mind) 
and wrote a bit in my journal.
	At 11:50pm I returned to the room to take a shower and do some laundry in the 
shower as well.  Turning on the TV, I caught an English-language news broadcast (Channel 
2) from 12:00am-12:15am, followed by a different English newscast from 12:15am-12:30am 
on NTV/Channel 7.  Taking a bit of time to look up things to do tomorrow, I didn't turn out 
the lights until 1:15am.
	A few misc. notes: in places like shopping malls, the escallators are reversed from the 
U.S. (the "UP" escallator is on the left), and are usually set up so that you must walk 
through each floor in order to catch the next escallator in the same direction... "Good 
Humor" ice-cream (known as "Ola" in Africa and "Miko" on Mauritius) is known as "Walls" 
here... "Nandos", the chain of hot & healthy peri-peri chicken restaurants popular in South 
Africa, is expanding in Malaysia, with 9 current locations and a planned 25... the various 
prayer times throughout the day are printed in the newspapers... as with the rest of the 
world, cel phones are extremely popular in Malaysia (perhaps because the payphones here 
never work)... KL is a very walkable city, and nothing is too far away that you can't walk to it 
if you enjoy brisk walking... and "Bukit" is the Malay word for "hill."
	Something interesting today: even with it being December 25th, I was surprised at 
how many people asked if I celebrated Christmas.  The Indian gentleman at the picture 
frame store asked, as did the Muslim cashier at the Butterfly Park (to which she would wish 
people a Merry Christmas if they answered yes).  Though a few shops were closed (a 
motorbike repair shop or two, and of course the Telekom Malaysia Museum), most 
everything else was open.

Dec. 26: Kuala Lumpur
	It was a nice thought, but the complimentary newspaper being shoved under the 
door at 5:56am woke me up.  Not having much luck with going back to sleep, I decided to 
get up and look for some ideas on what to do today.  Skipping breakfast, I left early, and 
noticed yet another intersection with poor signage: right at Jalan Bukit Bintang and Jalan 
Pudu (a major intersection), the signs as to which street is which are extremely confusing.
	The first thing I wanted to do was take the monorail mentioned in the Lonely Planet... 
but it was hard to find that morning for the one simple reason that it hasn't been finished 
yet!  The book shows the monorail on all its maps (with a notation that it'll be completed in 
1999), but the reality is that when Malaysia's economy became shaky a few years ago, 
construction was halted, and the project is far from complete (along parts of Jalan Pudu are 
concrete support structures left abandoned, with no track or train above them).  When I 
stopped to ask the Indian clerk at a small store about it, he said "not finished yet" — but 
construction on it has now resumed, and when finished, it will reach the Jalan Bukit 
Bintang area.
	With the monorail not being available, I decided to take the Star LRT (light rail) 
instead (there are two LRTs: the Star LRT line is above ground, and the Putra LRT line is 
underground).  Walking towards the Hang Tuah Station, I turned the wrong way, but a nice 
older Chinese security guard pointed me back in the right direction, where the station was 
only a few minutes walk away.
	The LRT operates like metros in many countries in which you buy a flimsy card, 
insert it, and keep it until you reach your destination, where you'll insert it once more to 
exit.  Since the ticket was cheap enough (RM1.20/US32c), I decided to buy a second one to 
keep as a souvenir.  At the station were signs advertising available service-sector jobs, and 
on the LRT itself was a sign indicating a RM500/US$131.58 fine for eating, smoking, or 
littering.  Wanting to go to the Chow Kit Street area, I took the Star LRT to a station which 
for some reason was NOT listed on my city tourist map: Pasar Seni, between Sultan Ismael 
and the Putra World Trade Centre Stations.
	The area around Chow Kit Street has a lively morning market (mostly Malay, though 
there are some Indian and Chinese stalls as well).  For RM10/US$2.63, one vendor had a T-
shirt for the Orange County California Planet Hollywood, not to far from where I live (and 
ironically, recently closed).  The VCDs here were among the cheapest in Malaysia, with most 
vendors asking RM5, and one vendor selling them for 3-for-RM10/US$2.63 (having missed 
seeing "The Emperor's New Groove" at home, I thought about buying it on VCD here, but 
passed).  While there are people selling VCDs and T-shirts, most of the marketplace consists 
of dozens of stalls selling fresh fruits, nuts, peppers, spices, meats, and other foodstuffs — 
and it's quite crowded, even in the morning.
	Knowing now that KL weather this time of year tends to be nice in the morning but 
rainy in the afternoon, I decided to head for the Petronas Towers while it was still sunny.  
The Towers are argueably the tallest buildings in the world (if you count the masts), and are 
a landmark of the city and an icon of KL.  With it being such a nice morning, I thought I'd 
try walking there even though it was quite far... on my side was the fact that you can see the 
Towers from most points in the city, but working against me was the way maps of KL tend to 
be inaccurate.  Still, it was a nice walk...
	From the Chow Kit area, I walked down Jalan Raja Alang — and stopping at a 7-11 
for a snack (as I had skipped breakfast), found a UFO-catcher (a claw machine in which you 
insert coins and try to grab yourself a stuffed animal) playing "Odoru Pompokorin" (the 
theme song to the popular Japanese cartoon "Chibi Maruko-chan"), exactly like the UFO-
catchers I had seen in South Africa a year earlier.  Chuckling, I ate my snack and continued 
on my way. The shady streets in the area were quiet this morning, and very pleasant to walk 
down.  The area has a relaxed feel to it quite different than the rest of hectic KL — laundry 
was drying from the windows, guys were out leisurely working on their motorbikes in the 
shade, and perhaps with not many tourists walking around here, people were quite friendly 
(a man I passed greeted me with "Merry Christmas").  A bit later, I came across an obvious 
night market area where Jalan Raja Alang and Jalan Raja Muda Musa meet, and though the 
stalls were now quiet, I'm sure the area becomes quite busy in the evenings.  According to 
the tourist map I had, the small street Jalan Raja Ali crosses the river and goes through to 
the other side — but it actually doesn't (it dead ends at a large concrete wall supporting the 
highway and bordering the river).  Reaching the wall, I realized I'd have to walk all the way 
around, as no street in the area crossed the river — so having no choice, I walked back all 
the way to busy Jalan Sultan Ismail (which does indeed cross the river).
	Walking down Jalan Ampang towards the Petronas Towers, I stopped in at the 
Malaysian Tourist Information complex, located inside a large historic mansion with 
beautiful grounds (far enough removed from the street that you can't tell if it's open or 
closed without approaching it).  Inside, I found one of the few Tourism Malaysia officials 
without a cold shoulder (perhaps becuase he was Chinese, not Malay), who told me that due 
to the holidays (Hari Raya), the nearby Petronas Towers were closed until January 2nd.  
When I then asked about visiting the Batu Caves (located a short distance outside of town), 
he said there would be a bus tour leaving at 2:30pm (R35/US$9.21), but looking me over, 
guessed I wouldn't be interested in a guided tour (he was right).  So instead, he told me to 
get to the caves on my own (by catching Bus 11D near the Bangkok Bank behind the 
Central Market or Bus 69 from the Pudu Bus Station) — but his information that "the bus 
leaves every two hours" was incorrect — the buses actually come quite frequently, as unless 
it was an amazing coincidence, I never had to wait more than a couple of minutes for a bus 
in either direction.
	Since I had walked quite a ways to reach the Petronas Towers and was practially 
already there, I decided to finish the walk, and reached the Towers within a matter of 
minutes.   The two 88-story Towers are based on an 8-sided star pattern with Islamic 
designs and motifs molded out of shiny silver steel, complete with fountains out front with 
plenty of tourists busy taking pictures.  There is no public observation deck in either of the 
towers (and security is tight), but the public is allowed up in controlled groups to the 41F 
"Sky Bridge" which connects the two buildings, though its closure this week meant I'd have 
to return at the very end of my trip in February.
	Walking inside the Towers, I saw the sign indicating that due to Hari Raya and 
Christmas, the Sky Bridge would be closed until January 2nd.  On a longshot, I asked the 
two guards if it would somehow be possible to go up anyway, but they politely said no.  
Deciding to have a quick look at the attached shopping center, I missed many of the better 
shops (finding them only upon my return in February), but did check out the dull, boring 
"mall" portion of the complex — no different than a multi-story American shopping mall with 
expensive trendy shops and franchised fast-food outlets (including Famous Amos, charging 
R3.40/US90c a cookie).  However, there is an Isetan in the mall (a Japanese department 
store), and I managed to find some "Shige Kicks" candy in their food basement (Japanese 
"shock" sour gumi candies that really give you a kick when you put them in your mouth... I 
really got hooked on them while in Japan a few years ago).  Even though they were 
expensive here I picked up a few — though I couldn't figure out why the Orange flavor had a 
different price (RM5.40/US1.42 vs. RM5.20/US$1.37 for the other flavors).  Schweppes 
Grapefruit soda was also on sale for RM1.09/US29c, so I bought a can of that as well.  
Hanging in Isetan was a sign indicating that the store would close at 8:00pm tonight, and 
would remain closed on Dec. 27 and Dec. 28 for Hari Raya (Sogo also had a similar sign).
	Deciding to get something to eat, I ordered an egg-on-toast at the "1901" Takeaway 
(one slice of toast and an egg for RM4.70/US$1.24), and during the 15 minutes it took to 
make, I walked over to a nearby bakery selling egg tarts for only RM1/US26c.
	When finished at the Towers, I took the LRT from KLCC to the Central Market to 
catch the bus to the Batu Caves.  Outside the Central Market, I asked a policeman where 
Bus 11D leaves from and was told to "wait there" — but I knew that was incorrect, as it's 
supposed to leave from next to the Bangkok Bank building.  Asking someone else on the 
street, I was told (correctly) to go to the Bangkok Bank as he pointed it out.  As I approached 
the bank, I noticed the 11D bus leaving its stop and heading towards me.  Flagging it down, 
the driver stopped to pick me up, and the fare all the way to the caves was only 
RM1.60/US42c (as I didn't have the exact change though, I put in RM2).  There were other 
tourists on the bus, and the 30-minute ride out of town takes you through some nice quiet 
residential areas before leaving you off just across the street from the start of the entrance to 
the caves.
	At the entrance is a nice Indian-style structure and a line of hawkers selling water, 
snacks, and peanuts (to feed to the monkeys).  The caves are reached by a 272-step 
staircase... I know this because walking up, I was behind a small group of Japanese tourists 
counting the stairs as they went.  At the top, one of them shouted "ah — koumori!" ("ah — 
bats!"), but she was mistaken, for the "bats" turned out to be just a group of birds.  There 
are plenty of monkeys around though, and they're constantly looking for handouts, often 
drinking from discarded soda cans or even a baby bottle.  The caves themselves have 
stalagtites, dripping water, and an Indian religious hut used for praying (local Indians make 
a pilgrimage here on certain holidays), and while the caves are mildly interesting, if you only 
have limited time in the KL area and wind up missing them, it's not a great loss.
	As it was sunny and hot walking back down the stairs, I bought a can of 100 PLUS 
soda out by the main entrance to drink while waiting for the bus — but no sooner did I buy 
it than the bus came by (without exact change again, I wound up paying another RM2 for 
the RM1.60 fare).  On the trip out to the caves, some of the areas we passed closer to town 
looked pretty interesting, so on the way back, I decided to get off early and explore the last 
leg of the trip on foot.
	Leaving the bus quite a bit earlier, I started walking back to the center of town along 
Jalan Ipoh... there were no tourists here — just lots of everyday businesses and shops, 
including an area full of house and bath supply shops (selling tile, sinks, fixtues, etc).  
Noticing a McDonald's across the street, I jaywalked across busy Jalan Ipoh to buy a soft-
serve cone only to find out it was probably the only McDonald's in all of Malaysia that didn't 
sell ice-cream.
	After walking for quite a while, I finally came to Jalan Raja Laut, and continued down 
the street to the center of town.  Jalan Raja Laut has a lot of interesting, inexpensive shops 
on it: one store selling watches as cheap as RM9.95/US$2.62 also had good prices on 
Chinese electronics and household items... across the street and just a bit further down 
were two wholesale watch shops where you could buy low-cost watches (single or bulk) quite 
reasonably cheap... passing the "Bestel" Hotel (where rooms were RM75), a sign on the door 
said "NO DURIANS, RM1,000 FINE"... further down Jalan Raja Laut was an inexpensive 
food and clothing shop selling nice polo shirts for RM16.80/US$4.42, and though I didn't 
buy anything, the items here were much cheaper than at other places.
	Heading south back to the center of KL, Jalan Raja Laut becomes boring once you 
reach Jalan Sultan Ismail, but I continued walking until arriving at Sogo.  There I found 
more Shige Kicks for sale (at RM5.20/US$1.37 for all flavors), and picked up a few.  In the 
basement food area I bought two McDonald's chocolate soft-serve cones, and as I had 
developed a small blister on my foot from walking too much with a new pair of sandals, 
bought some terrible German-made Band-Aids (which didn't stick at all) at the small 
pharmacy (RM1.50 for just a few).
	From Sogo I walked to the Central Market, thinking I should buy a pair of socks for 
myself since the Band-Aids weren't working.  There, the shops selling socks were asking 
RM12-RM15/US$3.16-US$3.95 for just one pair, but on a longshot, I asked at an Indian-
run clothing store if they sold socks, and was shown a pair of brown socks for 
RM3.50/US92c.  Still continuing to look though, I went upstairs and noticed the music 
store which had been closed the other day — inside, everything from Chinese-made student 
violins (starting at RM350/US$92.11) to Dominant strings were for sale.  I talked with the 
young Chinese owner for a few minutes, but soon went downstairs to buy the RM3.50 socks 
— as every other shop was asking quite a bit more.
	Sitting down on the floor by the front entrance to take my sandals off and put the 
socks on, I heard a "hello!" coming from somewhere.  Looking up, I saw the mother and 
daughter from South Carolina I had met at the Bird Park yesterday.  The mom had 
developed a blister wearing sandals as well, and thanked me for my suggestion to eat at 
Jalan Alor (where they had lunch earlier in the day).
	From the Central Market I wanted to head to Chinatown and look around the Jalan 
Petaling area during the day, as so far I had been there only early in the morning or at night.  
Knowing it would probably rain soon, I started on my way... and once there, I only had a 
little time to look around before the rain came at 3:50pm.  Heading for S&M Plaza and Koto 
Raya, I had plenty of time to look around there again, as the rain only became heavier as the 
afternoon wore on.
	The VCD shops on the lower level of S&M Plaza are cheaper than the outside stalls, 
with most charging only RM4-RM5 rather than the RM6-RM7+ charged outside (computer 
CD-ROMs are also quite cheap here, at RM9 rather than RM10-20 from the street vendors).  
New titles arrive on bootleg VCD almost daily, with movies such as "Family Man" (which just 
came to US theatres on December 22nd) already for sale on VCD.  Today I noticed a VCD 
shop in the S&M basement selling some of my favorite Japanese animation on both VCDs 
and all-region DVDs: "Kimagure Orange Road Memoir" (VCD... RM9.95/US$2.62), 
Mononoke Hime (VCD... RM12.95/US$3.41), "Shin Kimagure Orange Road" (DVD, 
RM$69.99/US$18.42), the Studio Ghibli films sold separately (DVD, RM69.99/US$18.42 
each) or as a set (RM240/US$63.16 — which went down to RM200/US$52.63 when I asked 
about them later in February).  While the store had a VCD player to demonstrate VCDs on, 
they had no DVD player — and the packaging on the 4-DVD set (mentioning 11 movies on 
one side and only 10 on the other) didn't reassure me.
	From both the S&M entrance as well as from the window of a CD store, I could see 
the lightning bolts and hear the loud thunder which quickly followed.  For a while, I joined 
everyone in sitting on the entrance steps (even though there's a notice saying not to do so), 
just watching the rain come down.  While sitting there, a young Chinese lady came up to me 
with a questionaire on internet e-travel services in Malaysia, which she asked me to fill out 
(with questions such as "do you feel safe buying over the internet?", "do you have a 
computer?", "what would you like to see in a travel site?", etc).  As I was finishing the 
questionaire, the police came up to ask a couple of locals sitting down to produce 
documents, but didn't bother anyone else... and while the restroom at S&M has a 
RM0.20/US5c fee for cleaning, it was pretty dirty inside.
	With the rain finally letting up, I walked to the skewer restaurant where I had eaten 
at the night before.  Due to the rain, they needed another 15 minutes to set up and get 
ready (I sat down and waited), and soon I was once again eating wonderfully fresh seafood 
and pork, having ten "regular" sticks (RM1.50 each) and two "short" abalone sticks (RM3.00 
each), bringing the total to just RM21/US$5.53 for a filling, delicious meal.  Sitting there 
relaxing with all the good food, I realized that my flight would be leaving in a few hours, at 
	Walking back towards the hotel, I stopped to call MAS to make sure my flight was 
still leaving on time... and along the way, also stopped at an internet cafe to check my email.  
Earlier at the Central Market, I saw a sign advertising a rate of RM4/hr or RM1/15mins for 
a nearby internet cafe, but here it was RM4/hr or RM3/30mins.  Still, they allowed telnet 
(my preferred method of checking email, even though this time I had set up a mail-forward 
to a temporary web-based account), and I was able to catch up on all my mail for 
RM3/US79c for a half-hour.
	Finally reaching the hotel (passing the Puduraya Bus Station area along the way and 
continuing up the light-lined street towards the Jalan Bukit Bintang area), I took a shower, 
re-packed, and relaxed in the room.  On TV was the Malaysian version of "Who Wants To Be 
A Millionaire" (in Malay) followed by the local version of "Wheel of Fortune."  Downstairs, I 
received my room deposit back from reception (I had paid with cash rather than a credit 
card), and with about 30 minutes left before I'd have to leave for the airport, took a leisurely 
walk down Jalan Alor.
	Seasons View had called the Airport Shuttle for me, and with Jalan Alor being 
typically crowded this time of night, the driver came a few minutes early.  Grabbing my bag, 
I hopped in for the ride to the half-way station. As the Malay driver was quite friendly and 
spoke decent English, we chatted a bit... he asked if I had seen certain sights, and 
mentioned that as he had to work during Hari Raya, he would go back to his hometown 
after the holiday period.  At the transfer station (to the large bus), I paid the RM25 fare, 
offering some Shige Kicks to the Muslim ladies behind the counter (the one lady brave 
enough to accept some soon convinced her colleague to try them as well).
	While checking in for the flight at the airport, I asked the MAS agent if the plane was 
sold out or not (curious, as when making my reservation a few months back, this one 
segment was highly overbooked, with only one agent with a friend at MAS being able to 
squeeze me in — at $100 more than other agents who couldn't get me the seat).  The agent 
told me it was only about 25% full, but that wasn't true: on board, about 90% of the seats 
were taken, and I was seated right in the middle of a huge group of mainland Chinese 
tourists before being able to find another seat by a window.
	Before boarding I had time to look around the airport, but as the hour became late 
and the shops closed, KLIA became very quiet.  After exploring the airport a bit (there are 
Muslim prayer areas for both men and women, as well as a hotel), I relaxed in an empty 
waiting area to catch on up CNN.  I also used the otherwise-useless KLIA telephone cards I 
had bought earlier to make a few calls, noting that the phones displayed a BARRED CALL 
message when trying to call the 800 access number for Time Kontact — though I don't know 
if it was intentional or just a glitch, as returning back in February, calls to Time Kontact 
from the airport went through.  Finally it was time to head for the gate, and soon I was being 
herded into a secured area with everyone else waiting for the red-eye flight.
	A few misc. things: the ambulances in KL are silent, with their sirens turned off... the 
national language of the country is Bahasa Malaysia (Malay), and many words seem to have 
been borrowed from English... the sidewalks of KL aren't always smooth, but it's still a very 
walkable city — though the traffic can be horrible... the local Chinese and Indian population 
speak English (plus Malay and their own language as well) much better than most Malays... 
and people jaywalk everywhere, even where pedestrian overpasses have been built.
	While efforts are sometimes made to bring the three major ethnic groups in Malaysia 
(Malay, Chinese, Indian) together, one can sense tension beneath the surface, and people 
tend to stay in groups of their own kind.  There is a rigid affirmative-action program in effect 
in the country guaranteeing native Malays certain jobs and barring Chinese, Indian, and 
other non-Malays from applying for them (in the paper, the available-jobs notices will often 
mention if only a native Malay will be considered for the position).  Political power and policy 
is definitely set by (and for) native Malays, though economic power is held mostly by the 
country's Chinese (non-Malays are excluded from much of the political system, meaning 
many Chinese and Indians have become entrepaneurs).  There seems to be a sometimes-
spoken, sometimes-unspoken jealously between Malays and their more affluent Chinese-
Malaysian neighbors, and the politics of race and affirmative action is a touchy subject in 
the country.
	Recently, when the Election Appeals Committee of Siqiu (a Malaysian-Chinese 
organization) commented that the special favoritism granted native Malays should end, an 
uproar soon followed — so the organization backtracked somewhat.  Here's an article I saw 
on my first day in Malaysia:
	  The Suqiu committee said today it supported the special positions
	  of the Malays and the continuation of the Government's affirmative
	  action programmes, taking into consideration the nation's current state
	  of affairs.  "...Further to an earlier statement issued by the Suqiu
	  committee on Dec. 22, we reaffirm our commitment to the continuation
	  of affirmative action programmes for the truly needy in this country.
	  In this context, we support the 'special positions of the Malays and
	  natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak' as provided for by
	  Article 153 of the Federal Constitution," the committee said in a
	  statement... Article 153 of the Federal Constitution touches on
	  reservation of quotas in respect of services, permits, etc., for
	  Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak.  Suqiu
	  had, before the 1999 general election, submitted a 17-point memorandum
	  with 83 demands, including a request to abolish Malay rights.  It
	  drew severe criticism and protests from various groups, organisations,
	  community leaders, and politicians... At a sitting earlier this month,
	  (the Prime Minister) had said the Government could not entertain
	  demands by Suqiu as it was tantamont to abolishing Malay rights and
	  could result in chaos...
	 Here's an excerpt from another newspaper article on the subject from February, with 
the headline of "Malays Have Nothing To Fear":
	  Malays need not fear for the future as their rights have been
	  enshrined in the Federal Constitution and through the New Economic
	  Policy (NEP).  This was the message given by Finance Ministry adviser
	  Datuk Mustapa Mohamed and parliamentary secretary at the Prime
	  Minister's Department Datuk Noh Omar when speaking with Universiti
	  Sains Malaysia students... Noh said Article 152 of the Federal
	  Constitution refers to Bahasa Malaysia as the national language which
	  has to be used in all official matters, including correspondence...
	  He said that Article 153 refers to Malay reserve land, services,
	  permits and their special rights according to Article 153(1)...
	  Article 159 states that before amending the above articles on Malay
	  rights, the Malay rulers had to give their consent, otherwise,
	  parliament could not interfere in these rights through any
	  amendments, he said... Noh also said Article 181(1) guarantees the
	  rights of the Malay rulers and their special status... (Mustapa) said
	  that Malays here did not have to fight like the farmers in Zimbabwe
	  to forcibly take over control of farms from white settlers, because
	  Malays here have reserve lands and they have been given a piece of
	  the economic pie.  "They are given opportunities to be involved in
	  businesses which give them the chance to learn and earn and become
	  successful and affluent just like the non-Malays," Mustapa said.

Dec. 27: Cape Town (South Africa)
	The long red-eye flight to Cape Town tonight would first land in Johannesburg, but 
that was still quite a few hours away.  On the plane, I managed to sleep a little between the 
multiple warnings to return to the seat due to turbulence, but only for short intervals.  
Finally landing in Johannesburg, we were allowed to disembark and wait in a secured 
section of the airport, but the area had no ATM or telephone card dispenser, and we weren't 
allowed to wander off.  When I asked an employee if there was a place to buy a telephone 
card, she pointed the way to a Telkom office which was supposed to open at 6:00am, but 
walking there, I found it dark and closed, and even when we began reboarding the flight at 
6:20am, no one had shown up.  In the meantime, the coffee stand had opened at 6:00am, so 
I hung out there talking with an older South African couple (originally from Britain) and the 
waitress about our recent American election.  Once open, I also had a look inside the main 
duty-free shop, and was surprised to see Nando's peri-peri sauces available for sale in 
souvenir take-home bottles.
	On board the plane again, our takeoff to Cape Town was delayed by 1hr 20mins 
because three passengers didn't re-board as they were supposed to. With a list of 
passengers, the stewardesses walked through the aisles asking people their names as they 
tried to figure out who was missing.  Once the identities of the missing passengers had been 
ascertained, we then had to wait as a search was done for their checked-in baggage (so it 
could be removed) — though in the end, it turned out none of the three passengers had 
checked in any bags.
	Finally in the air again, it was another 1hr 50mins to Cape Town, and before landing, 
the stewardesses walked through the aisles spraying the plane with disinfectant (though I 
have no idea why they did this before arriving into Cape Town, as they didn't spray before 
landing in Johannesburg).  Looking down at the thousands of shanties below, I remembered 
what Paula (of One City Tours) said last year: that she knows it's soap opera time when the 
planes start flying overhead.
	Standing in line at Cape Town immigration, I had a sense of deja vu... one year ago at 
the same time of day in the same sunny weather, I was here in the same line, waiting for the 
entry stamps.  There was a shorter wait this year, but the lady stamped my passport with a 
visa expiring Feb. 1st (the day I'd be leaving South Africa back for Malaysia) — though I 
wondered what would happen if I wound up needing a few extra days in the country.  Unlike 
KLIA, the baggage at Cape Town airport came out quickly, so I soon found myself looking for 
an ATM and a place to buy a telephone card.
	There's construction going on at the airport, and a sign indicating that the new 
international arrivals terminal would be finished by December 2000 (oh well...)  Hopefully 
when it finally is completed, someone will think to install an ATM and a telephone card 
dispenser at the terminal — for even though these are arguably the two most important 
services needed for incoming international passengers, you have to walk over to the 
domestic terminal to find them.  Once at the domestic departures area, one ATM had a 
"closed" sign on it, and the other dispensed my request using only R50 notes.  Needing 
change now for the telephone card machine, no shop would give it to me (the bank had a 
long queue), so I had to get some by buying a small snack at a kiosk.  The rand was very 
weak against the dollar (at US$1=R7.5), but by the time I returned to Cape Town in mid-
January, it had fallen to US$1=R7.9.  As good as the exchange rate was though, prices 
didn't seem to be that much cheaper than they were last year when the rate was 
US$1=R6.1, with Q+Q watches still selling for US$30, and very few real bargains.
	Though last year I found and stayed at a wonderful B&B in the Oranjezicht area of 
town (Bridle's), the B&B was booked for some of the days I'd need to stay with them... so the 
owners instead set me up with a friend of theirs just starting a B&B in the nearby 
Vredehoek area.  Because I was exhausted from the flight and just wanted to get to town, I 
didn't call the B&B from the airport even though I probably should have (as the owner would 
have come to pick me up).  Instead, I looked for the Intercape airport shuttle office — but 
Intercape no longer operates an airport shuttle.  I thought about calling Rikkis at first (as 
they do an airport shuttle for a cheaper price), but didn't want to wait for them to have to 
drive to the airport from town (otherwise I would have just called the B&B)... so I walked up 
to the other shuttle company booths to ask their prices: there were 3-4 choices, and though 
the first one charged R90/US$12, their van had just left (I saw it leave before entering the 
building).  Not wanting to wait, the lady showed me to another booth which first wanted 
R110, but then agreed to R90 (I wound up being the only passenger).
	Driving into town, the weather was typical for Cape Town this time of year: warm 
termperatures with sunny skies, and a cloud just over Table Mountain.  Arriving at 
11:30am, I didn't have R90 in change, so just paid the driver R100 as the owner of the B&B 
(Kritz Odendaal) came out to greet me.  Located on Pinetree Crescent in Vredehoek (off of 
Derry Street, and just below the left-most of the three ugly "silo"-shaped apartment blocks), 
Kritz has a nice house with a separate attached structure for the B&B — though as he is 
just starting the B&B (I was his first guest), he's in the process of building onto the unit, 
changing it slightly, and making a braai (BBQ) area in the front.  A nice retired Afrikaaner 
who used to work with newspapers and advertising, Kritz greeted me alone today, as his wife 
was away for a few days helping their daughter nurse a cold and look after the grandkids.  
Though the room has no air-con, it's still quite a nice place, with a ceiling-fan, its own 
bath/shower, a refrigerator, a new Konka color TV, and plenty of space.  It's still very much 
a work-in-progress (in fact Kritz installed the closet shelves later that afternoon while I was 
out walking), and I'm sure will be even better when complete.  The view of Cape Town below 
isn't as impressive as from Bridle's (it's partially obstructed here), but is nice enough, with a 
good view of Robben Island in the distance (there are also plenty of guinea fowl wandering 
the streets up here).
	Looking from downtown, Vredehoek is located up on the hillside just a bit to the left 
of Oranjezicht, and is an extra 10 minutes further to walk to.  Kritz also has an apartment 
closer to the center of town where his daughter used to live, and when he's finished fixing 
up the first place, he's going to set up the other flat for longer-term rentals.
	In the driveway of the B&B were two cars: an older gold Honda Prelude and a newer 
white Honda Ballade/Civic (the same car I drive at home).  When I mentioned to Kritz I have 
the same car, he said he was considering selling the Ballade in order to buy a Dodge Neon 
instead, as the Neons are (relatively) cheap in South Africa — but I advised him against 
doing it.
	With it being a beautiful sunny day, I immediately wanted to go out and walk around 
Cape Town.  Leaving me off at the V&A Waterfront in his car (Kritz didn't yet realize how 
much I love to walk to-and-from town), I received a short tour of the neighborhood along the 
way.  With the weather as wonderful as it was, the last thing I wanted to do was spend time 
inside a shopping complex, so after walking inside just to ask how much a disposable 
camera was (an expensive R50/US$6.66 for one without flash), I immediately turned around 
and walked back out.
	Outside the V&A, I called the local office of Curnow Shipping (the company currently 
running the RMS St. Helena ship I'd be taking in a few days) to let them know I was in town 
and find out where the ship was docked: it was to arrive in at "J Berth" of Duncan Docks 
later today, and embarkation would begin at 11:00am on Saturday.  Duncan Docks is the 
"real" dock area of Cape Town, down from the artificial made-for-tourists V&A (from where 
only pleasure cruises and the Robben Island ferry depart).  Deciding to find the ship and 
have an early look at it (and get a heads up for Saturday), I asked around at the V&A on 
how to get to Duncan Docks — but almost no one there could give me directions, as it's not 
a place that concerns most tourists.  Duncan Docks is part of the large Cape Town docks 
area neighboring the V&A, but is a world apart in both appearance and functionality.  Its 
entrance is at the CalTex station just outside the V&A's gate, and once inside this industrial 
area, it's very easy to get lost, as there are no signs or directions to tell you where the 
various berths are located.  With only some general directions, I tried in vain a few times to 
locate the RMS, but as it took quite a while to walk the long distances with each try, I finally 
decided to give up for the time being and try again later.
	Heading downtown, I stopped at the Hungry Lion on Adderly Street for an 
R0.85/US11c soft-serve cone (McDonald's nearby was asking R0.99 for their cones), and 
just as I had done a year earlier, spent some time looking inside Woolworths, Edgars, and 
the other shops along Adderly Street.  Woolworths was expensive, and though Edgars did 
have a nice polo shirt for R59/US$7.87, its sleeves were too long.  Walking into the Golden 
Acre Centre, I ordered an egg-toast sandwich for takeaway (R11/US$1.47) from a small 
snack shop near Wimpy's before looking around at some of the shops inside.  Walking 
around a bit more, I was surprised at how quiet Greenmarket Square was today, with only 
two or three hawkers out in the pedestrian mall.  Wanting to look for some cheap clothes, I 
decided to walk over to the wholesale area of town, but most of the shops there were closed, 
with signs on a few indicating they were closed for Eid (the same as Hari Raya, I believe).
	Later in the afternoon I decided to head back to the V&A (as it's one of the few places 
in town where the shops are always open), and spent a couple hours walking around the 
overpriced tourist area.  At the red crafts barn outside the main mall, nothing had changed: 
I found the stall where I bought two overpriced pillow covers and a T-shirt last year still 
there selling the same items, though the barn now closes at 7:00pm instead of 6:00pm (just 
for this week closing time was 6:00pm due to the holidays).  In the main shopping building, 
the 1F T-shirt shop "Greatest Little T-Shirt Shop in the Whole World" should be renamed 
"Most Expensive T-Shirt Shop in the Whole World" — as they wanted an incredible (for 
South Africa) R130/US$17.33 for a T-shirt with a tiny embroidered flag.  As I commented in 
last year's African Travelogue, the V&A is the biggest tourist rip-off in Cape Town, and I 
wasn't surprised to see that nothing in that respect had changed.  As with last year, the only 
shops offering decent prices on their wares were the two AudioLens camera stores (with 
average prices on Fuji film, and no-flash disposable cameras going for R39.95/US$5.33 
rather than the R50 everyone else was charging), and the official Ngwenya Glass shop, 
which was selling their items for very good prices (much less than the neighboring souvenir 
shops were selling them for).
	Walking up to the 2F of the V&A, I noticed a bomb bag on the wall ("Barrett Bomb 
Bag") with a picture of two popular bomb types (the Mini Limpett type 158 and the Soviet 
SPM), along with directions on how to use the bag.  While malls in most countries might 
have fire extinguishers, in Africa, bomb bags are common in places like this, and I 
remembered that the first time I saw such a bag was last year in Windhoek, Namibia.
	In one of the CD shops, I noticed a CD for sale called "District Six: The Musical", and 
going back to one of the AudioLens camera stores, I bought a disposable Fuji camera (no 
flash) for R39.95/US$5.33.  The Pic 'N Pay supermarket had a no-flash disposable Kodak for 
R36.99, but the import Kodak disposables never indicate what film speed is used in them, 
so I opted for the Fuji.  In the Pic 'N Pay however, I did buy a bottle of fresh orange/guava 
juice, as it's virtually impossible to find 100% pure orange juice (by itself) in South Africa.
	Finished with the V&A, I was feeling a bit disappointed that I had been unable to 
locate the ship earlier... so being a bit stubborn, I decided to forgo returning back to the 
B&B in favor of heading back to Duncan Docks for another go at trying to find the RMS.  
Asking directions, I walked down the long road (for the third time today) to finally see the 
ship's yellow funnel sticking up above a building.  Satisfied, I decided to call it a day.
	Walking back to the B&B, I followed the same general route I had come to know so 
well last year, though further up the hill at the 7-11 (which no longer had an "Odoru 
Pompokorin"-playing UFO-catcher), I veered to the left to head toward Vredehoek.  Walking 
briskly, I left the CalTex station by the V&A/Duncan Docks entrance at 6:10pm, and 
stopping briefly at the KwikSpar down the street from Kritz' place for some sodas and 
snacks, reached the B&B by 7:15pm.
	Earlier in the day, I had left a message with Russell and his wife Judith, whom I had 
corresponded with on the internet's St. Helena Mailing List (they had taken the RMS to St. 
Helena the previous year)... locals in the area, they invited me to give them a call when I was 
in town.  Walking in at the B&B that evening, Kritz mentioned that Russell had phoned 
while I was out, so I gave him a call back.  Russell teaches sailing right at Duncan Docks, 
and talking to him on the phone, we arranged to meet tomorrow, when I'd join his class for a 
sail in the morning.
	Having had a long day with a lot of walking, I asked Kritz if it'd be OK to use his 
phone to call Mr. Delivery (for pizza) — but instead, Kritz offered to drive to dinner 
somewhere.  We settled on Nando's (it was Kritz's first time eating there), where I ordered 
two single chicken burgers with extra-spicy peri-peri, and shared an order of spicy rice.  
After returning back to the B&B, the day was beginning to catch up with me, and it was 
hard to keep awake.  I managed to stay up for a bit to catch up on the journal, but as soon 
as I was finished, I immediately went to sleep.

Dec. 28: Cape Town
	I woke up this morning to heavy rain — in the middle of summer!  Wondering if the 
sailing class would still be held (Kritz commented "of course! — if it's a South African 
teaching it!"), I called Russell to check... and sure enough, he was planning to teach and sail 
today, even with the rain.  Since I couldn't walk down to the docks with the weather the way 
it was, Kritz volunteered to take me down in the car.
	With a bit more time now, I had a chance to talk with Kritz over breakfast.  Retired 
now, he worked in the newspaper and and advertising business for most of his life, holding 
pretty much the same political views as most white South Africans his age (and most white 
South Africans in general): unhappy with the ANC, he was delighted that they had lost seats 
in Cape Town during the recent local elections.
	Driving around the dock area in the rain with Kritz after breakfast, it wasn't easy 
finding the non-descript building where Russell was teaching, as most buildings didn't have 
signs indicating what they were — though I did see a dark blue VW kombi with "Tristan da 
Cunha" painted on it (as I would later find out, it belongs to Tristan House, a place run by a 
Tristanian living in the area, where fellow Tristanians visiting Cape Town for medical 
reasons or holidays can stay).  At 9:30am we finally located the correct building (very close 
to where the RMS was berthed), and I walked up to the 2F where Russell was teaching his 
class.  Five students were in class that morning (most having sailed before), and Russell was 
covering subjects ranging from right-of-way to the correct sail adjustments for various wind 
	Though still cloudy, the rain subsided for a bit, so we decided to leave the classroom 
and go out for a sail in the 34ft boat belonging to the school's owner.  Because of the rain 
and weak wind, the on-board motor was used most of the time... leaving the slip, we sailed 
right past the RMS, as I had my first good look at the ship I'd be spending close to a month 
on.  With everyone given wet gear to wear, our clothes stayed dry, but I had only sandals 
with the Central Market socks for shoes.  With it once more starting to drizzle, we passed a 
group of large container ships as we headed out for the open water... the sails soon went up 
for teaching, though with the lack of wind, the motor remained on.  Russell took the boat to 
a neighboring marina to deliver a book to someone on a catamaran about to leave for the 
Carribean, and walking around the marina's slip area, it was decided that because of the 
weather, the class would return back to go over more classwork for the rest of the day, and 
instead have an extended overnight sail tomorrow.  Anne-Sophie (a student from France 
staying on the boat who spoke English quite well from having lived in the US) had been 
steering most of the morning, but with Russell's OK, offered me control of the wheel for a 
few minutes.
	Back on land, we walked into the warm and dry restaurant at the Royal Cape Yacht 
Club for a cheap lunch: R24/US$3.20 for "fettucine" (in reality, just noodles & tomato 
sauce), though the hot chocolate (served in tall, thin glasses) was excellent.  Sitting around 
the table, we had a great conversation about everything from electronics to the recent 
elections in both South Africa and the US.
	After lunch as Russell returned to teaching in the classroom, his wife Judith came by 
to pick me up and show me around the Cape in her little 1984 Toyota Corolla.  First we tried 
to stop at the V&A, as she needed to pick up mail from her PO Box there — but there were 
so many cars trying to get into the complex that the wait would have easily been a half-hour 
just to reach the parking lot.  After about 15 minutes, she decided to try later in the day, 
and made a U-turn before reaching the aquarium.
	Judith spent the next few hours driving me through various areas of the Cape, taking 
me through towns such as Sea Point, exclusive Clifton, Camp's Bay and Haut Bay.  
Stopping for an ice-cream along the way, Judith pointed out Chapman's Peak Drive from a 
distance before driving me as far as you can currently go on it (6kms along a newly-paved 
stretch of road) — the famous drive was closed last year due to a rock fall, and the general 
deterioration of the road coupled with a lack of funds for fixing it has kept it closed and its 
future very much in doubt.  It's a shame, as not only is it one of the few ways to get from 
one side of the area to the other, but the views from the famous road make it one of the 
Cape's premiere tourist attractions.  One idea suggested for raising the necessary repair 
funds was charging a tax for the road — but to date, the status of Chapman's Peak has 
remained in limbo, with no firm plan on what will be done with it.  Driving up as far as we 
could (at which point the road is blocked), I got out to take some pictures... looking past the 
roadblock, you can see the potholes, mudslides, and severe deterioration of the closed road, 
but from the lookout the view was spectacular, and I'm sorry I missed taking the drive last 
year before the road was closed.
	Driving back into town via Consentia Valley, Noordhoek and Fish Hoek, I recognized 
the area as the same that Francois had shown me last year — but this time, I was finally 
able to have an idea of the Cape's layout in my head.  In the car, Judith and I had some 
good conversations as she shared with me her views on the current state of South Africa: 
her view of the ANC is that it's bad to have a one-party political system, as it only invites 
corruption (currently the ANC has a virtual lock on political power in the country), and 
mentioned that unlike other countries, you don't actually vote for a particular person in 
South Africa — you vote for their party.  Earlier in the day when Kritz was telling me about 
the election, he showed me his thumb — marked with a special paint that cannot easily be 
removed (to show that someone has voted), and weeks later, I'd still see people walking 
around with paint marks on their thumbs.  Judith commented on everything from 
affirmative action (feeling people are given jobs in which they have no idea what they're 
doing) to how small and useless the government retirement scheme in the country is, to how 
expensive it is to get a car — with the buyer not only having to afford the price of the vehicle 
itself,  but having to deal with loan rates above 20%.
	While whites in South Africa are still much better off than their black counterparts, 
it's important to note that the current economy is hard on everyone: salaries are low, the 
rand isn't worth much, and many whites are struggling.  Though their struggle can't 
compare to the uphill battle the country's black majority faces in obtaining even the most 
basic living necessities, it'd certainly be a mistake to believe that whites in South Africa are 
all well-off: many hold down multiple jobs (including low-paying, service-sector jobs), and 
have to work hard to make ends meet.  One thing I noticed over time was how people living 
throughout Africa tended to be much friendlier and helpful towards each other (when not 
killing one another) than Americans would be in normal, everyday life.  Even in South Africa 
where there is still a definite interpersonal separation between whites and blacks (and this 
attitude usually only showed itself with people of the same race), I was surprised to observe 
the friendliness amongst strangers, and a willingness to give assistance to someone instead 
of just passing them by, as Americans — at least in much of the US — would most likely do.
	After a while, we stopped at the famous little seaside town of Kalkbay, where Russell 
and Judith live in a nice old house with 3 dogs, 2 cats, and 7 birds.  When Russell came 
home from teaching, the two showed me their photo album of St. Helena from last year, and 
gave me an idea of what to expect.
	With it now being time for dinner, we went out for a walk to get something to eat.  
Strolling down the pleasant main street of Kalkbay, Judith commented that the items in the 
windows of the expensive antique stores have been there since she was growing up — only 
they're a lot more expensive now that the town has become a tourist area.  Still, Kalkbay is 
nice small town (there's not even an ATM here — the closest one is in nearby Fish Hoek) 
situated right at the water, with the train from Cape Town stopping right by the shore.  
Walking onto the sand for a minute or two, we soon decided on the Matisse Cafe for dinner, 
a nice little place to sit and relax.  I opted for a pizza with chicken (having half and giving 
the rest to Russell and Judith), and we chatted on everything from music to how South 
African banks charge customers to make deposits and withdrawls from a teller.
	After dinner Russell and Judith drove me back to the B&B, and though there wasn't 
too much to write about today, it really was quite nice spending it with Russell and Judith.  
Returning to the B&B at 10:50pm, there was a note on my refrigerator mentioning that due 
to the main house refrigerator breaking, Kritz had put a few of his items in mine just until 
the main one could be fixed tomorrow.  After writing a few notes in my journal, I went to 
sleep about an hour later.

Dec. 29: Cape Town
	Walking down the street to the KwikSpar this morning to pick up some Omo laundry 
soap for the ship, I noticed that the KwikSpar (two blocks down on Derry, open 7am-9pm) 
was more expensive than even the 7-11 just a few blocks away.  I was also hoping to pick up 
a cheap disposable shaver, but the KwikSpar sold only the expensive refillable ones.  It's 
interesting to note that the 7-11s in South Africa aren't part of the international 7-11 chain 
— nor are they open 24rs... when I asked a cashier at one once what their hours were, I 
received a look indicating I must be stupid, with her reply being "from 7 to 11."
	It was a beautiful day, and after chatting with Kritz over a nice breakfast, I left at 
9:00am to walk into town, stopping first at the Gardens Centre for a look around.  There in 
a stationary store, I bought a lotto ticket for R2/US27c (I didn't win), and inside Clicks (a 
general drug/sundries store that's part of the Pick 'N Pay chain), I bought a cheap 
Philishave 30 battery-operated travel shaver on sale for R99/US$13.20.  As the camera store 
in the Centre was asking an incredible R85/US$11.33 for a disposable camera with flash, I 
passed on that, but did pick up a nail clipper at the pharmacy.
	Leaving the Gardens Centre, I backtracked a bit to walk over to Kloof Street.  The 
map I had showed that the small residential street I was on would intersect and connect 
with the street I was trying to reach, and though it did for pedestrians (after walking up 
some steps), if I was driving a car, I would have come to a dead end.
	Walking down Kloof Street, I noticed the listings in a reality office window: homes in 
this area typically ranged from US$100,000-US$150,000 — though one was going for a 
hefty US$433,000.  On the other side of the street was a shop called "Melissa's: The Food 
Store", which was much like a California "Trader Joes" only on a smaller scale (I bought a 
brownie before continuing my walk down the street).
	After a while, Kloof St. turns into Long Street, and while passing a travel agency, 
noticed a sign in its window advertising an internet connection for R0.40/min — but going 
in and using the service for only 5 minutes, I was charged R5 (a minimum perhaps?  It 
wasn't mentioned on the sign).  With the lady busy helping another client, I figured it wasn't 
worth the time to wait and ask about the R3/US40c difference (especially as most of the 
other internet cafes in the area were asking R0.50/minute), so I just went on my way.
	Finding myself back near Adderly & Strand, I bought another R0.85c/US11c soft-
serve cone from Hungry Lion before walking over to the large Cape Town station.  Here on 
the roof of the station (near the kombi/minivan ranks), a large outdoor marketplace was in 
full swing, with dozens of stalls selling everything from T-shirts to toothpaste.  Browsing but 
not really needing anything, I soon made my way into the nearby GAME store (located in the 
Grand Central complex near the station).  GAME is one of the better stores in South Africa, 
selling everything from electronics to food to hardware at a very reasonable price.  There, 
Kodak disposable cameras with flash were only R59.99/US$8 (the cheapest in Cape Town), 
but I decided to wait for a Fuji disposable instead.  Even with the wonderful exchange rate 
and a discount store such as GAME, electronics in South Africa were still much more 
expensive than in the States.  To give you an idea of such prices, GAME was selling the 
same Chinese-made Orion DVD player that both Target and WalMart had put on sale for 
US$89 in the States the previous month — but even at one of the cheapest stores in the 
country, the price was still R1,899/US$253.20.  GAME also had the Sony PlayStation 2 in 
stock (it was the first time I physically saw one, for in the US it had been in short supply in 
the stores and was a popular item up on Ebay) — but not only was it 220V and PAL (the 
South African TV standard), but it cost R4,999/US$666.53.
	From GAME I walked to the garment district (around Corporation and Barrack 
Streets) to look for some cheap clothes.  The two places I mentioned in last year's African 
Travelogue are still here selling clothes at very cheap prices, but nothing there caught my 
eye this time.  However, in the same area is also Li's Clothing (29-31 Buitenkant Street — 
look for the blue entrance), where boxes full of polo shirts (without pockets) in various colors 
were only R10/US$1.33 each.  Buying myself a blue one, I left the store and immediately 
stumbled upon the new site of the District Six Museum, just a few doors down from Li's 
	During the Township Tour of Cape Town I took last year, we visited the museum at 
its temporary location in an old church a bit out of town... but since then, it has moved to 
its current location in a newly rennovated building right here in town.  Even though I had 
seen the museum and many of its exhibits last year, I spent time looking through it once 
again, as there are some excellent new interactive exhibits.  These exhibits are wonderful... 
you approach a display focusing on music in District Six, and music automatically begins 
playing... and there are museum docents walking around eager to answer any questions you 
might have, or volunteer information on what life was like in District Six before the area was 
razed.  Speaking to one of the docents, I found out there is an active effort by the new 
government to try to return the land to those who once lived there — and if you can bring in 
proof that you lived in the area, you could put in a claim for land.  Entrance to the museum 
is free (with donations gladly accepted), and it's a must for any visitor to Cape Town.
	Making a quick stop at "Costaless" (19 Buitenkant Street), I picked up a Cape Town 
souvenir T-shirt for R14.99/US$1.99 (quite a bit better than the R130/US$17.33 the shops 
at the V&A were asking for souvenir T-shirts), and picking up an egg & cheese sandwich at a 
nearby takeaway, I walked around the area a bit more before returning back to Strand & 
Adderly.  Once downtown again, I decided to visit the nearby Castle, a landmark in Cape 
Town — and about the only site in town I didn't bother to see properly last year (when I had 
just looked around briefly after it had closed).
	Walking up to the Castle, I saw a sign mentioning a 2:00pm tour, so I paid the 
R15/US$2 admission and walked inside.  The Castle is the oldest surviving building in Cape 
Town (dating back to 1666), and still has many of its original stones... I stayed with the 
guide for most of the tour, but wandered off on my own towards the end.  Kritz had asked 
me to call and check in with him at 2:00pm (as he had wanted to show me a shopping 
complex located outside of town later in the day) — but giving him a ring outside the Castle, 
I let him know I probably wouldn't be back until dinnertime (it was a beautiful day and there 
was other things I wanted to do more than visit a shopping mall).
	Walking back up Adderly, the street turns into the Company Gardens (a nice stretch 
of green with historic buildings, museums, gardens, and places to relax).  There's a new 
Jewish Museum in the Gardens, but after walking uphill to reach it, found it closed in the 
middle of the afternoon.  Turning around to walk back into town, I headed off for the V&A 
again, though stopped in first at the large new Cullinan Hotel to use their bathroom (the 
hotel always appears to be vacant from a distance because there never seems to be any cars 
outside it — but indeed there were people staying there, with the current single rate being 
R555/US$74 a night without breakfast).
	At the V&A once more, I went to AudioLens to pick up a Fuji Superia 800 disposable 
camera with flash (R69.95/US$9.33), as I didn't have a flash unit for my Canon AE-1 
Program.  Buying a milkshake at a food stand, I should have waited, for at St. Elmo's (where 
I went next to buy a slice of pizza), the milkshakes were only R4.90/US65c.
	In the ampatheatre outside, a group of 5 young singers in their 20s (a white girl, a 
black girl, a black guy, and two coloured guys) were giving a concert, singing light, 
entertaining South African songs concerning the country's history (being the V&A, the songs 
weren't political or controversial, but rather happy and upbeat).  Many songs were in 
Afrikaans, but others were in Dutch, English, and even Xhosa.  Between numbers (sung to a 
pre-recorded tape) the group put on little skits, and the crowd (including many locals) loved 
it, laughing at some of the South African historal references I wasn't aware of.  The 
ampatheatre was packed, and it was a nice way for everyone to relax in the late 6:00pm sun.
	I had planned to leave the V&A at 5:30pm (to be back by 6:30pm), but was enjoying 
the show so much, I didn't leave until 6:00pm (though I still left before the end).  Stopping 
only to pick up another phone card at the Telkom shop, I left the V&A entrance (by the 
CalTex station) at 6:05pm, walking very briskly back to the B&B.  On the way home, I 
passed the internet cafe I used to pass everyday last year (between the Mount Nelson and 
the Protea Lodge, next to the pharmacy), but didn't want to spend time checking my email 
tonight, as I had told Kritz I'd be home at 6:30pm.  When I arrived back at the B&B at 
6:54pm, Kritz was outside working on his front lawn, and showed me what he planned to do 
to the place over the next few weeks.  When finished, he needed a few minutes to get ready, 
so I sat down to watch some TV until we were ready to go.
	Soon I was driving with Kritz out to Century City, a huge new shopping complex 
located outside of Cape Town (near the Ratanga Junction amusement park).  Century City is 
a large American-style mall done even one better — with African and European-style murals 
gracing the walls and marbled floors and domes, the new mall has an opulant look, even 
though the stores inside are the same ones you'd find anywhere else in the country.  The 
mall is divided into two large sections, and as you're allowed only one hour of free parking, 
we looked around one area for an hour before going out to move the car for another hour of 
free parking.  Pick 'N Pay and Clerks had both closed by the time we found them (9:30pm), 
but downstairs in the food court I bought a schwarma for R14.95/US$1.99, letting Kritz try 
a bit of mine as he had never tried one before.  If you're an American, the mall is nothing out 
of the ordinary, but for Kritz (a 65yr-old retired South African), I can see where it really 
might be something different than what he's probably used to (one thing different than 
American malls: bomb bags, of the same type I saw at the V&A).
	On the drive back from Century City I listened as Kritz told me South African history 
from the Afrikaaner point of view, and once back in town, we stopped at the 7-11 on Kloof 
Street — but as they were out of the cheese Kritz was looking for, we made a stop at the 7-
11 on Vredehoek St. and Buitenkant St. as well (the one I'd usually stop at while walking), 
as Kritz was good friends with one of the guys working there.
	Misc. notes: in South Africa none of the stores (from the supermarkets to the 7-11s) 
have pre-sliced bread — instead, the bread is sold whole, and each store has a bread slicer 
for people to use... and the oft-used South African expression "just now" doesn't mean "now" 
as it would in American English, but rather "sometime later."

Dec. 30: Cape Town / RMS St. Helena / Cape Town
	Today I was to board the Royal Mail Ship RMS St. Helena and set sail for St. Helena.  
Waking up early, I walked down to the KwikSpar before breakfast to look for a comb, but 
with none in stock, I decided to walk a bit further over to the 7-11 on Vredehoek and 
Buitenkant streets, where I found one for R2.99/US40c (walking back to the B&B, I also 
stopped along the way to use the payphone down the street from the KwikSpar to call 
	With the RMS embarkation set for 11:00am (though I wanted to arrive early) there 
was plenty of time for breakfast this morning, and while preparing it, Kritz handed me an 
Afrikaans paper and asked if I could understand any of it.  Over breakfast, he talked again 
about how lazy some blacks were, but when he saw the student violin I was taking with me 
to St. Helena, asked if I would play a few tunes for the black handyman he had working on 
his lawn that morning.  Taking it out, I played a few quick tunes for both of them before it 
was time to go.
	Leaving for the docks at 10:10am, we arrived with plenty of time to spare at 10:30am.  
In the building next to J Berth (by the RMS) plenty of cargo was stacked high (including 
sacks of sugar), though at this late hour, it was obviously not bound for St. Helena.  There 
in the building, I met John and Cecelia from the UK: John was a botanist probably in his 
early 60s, and his friend Cecelia was a retired flutist who liked travelling to far-off places, 
even at the age of 80.  Kritz was curious to see what the ship was like, but once 
embarkation started, his request for a look around was denied (though it's quite possible to 
have a look on board if you arrange it beforehand and don't ask to do it right before 
embarkation).  Going through a metal detector, I said goodbye to Kritz, and walked onto the 
	On board the RMS, the first thing I did was try to find the cabin I'd be staying in: 
C49.  The cheapest rooms on the RMS are 4-person cabins, with the next-cheapest being a 
two-person cabin... I managed to reserve the only 2-person cabin with a porthole (C49) for 
three of the four segments I'd be on board, but would have to move to a cabin without a 
porthole for the St. Helena -> Cape Town segment.
	A bit of information on the RMS St. Helena: the current vessel to carry the name was 
built in Scotland in 1989 specifically to replace the "old" RMS (which had been a mail ship 
converted to a passenger liner), with the purpose of supplying the South Atlantic island of 
St. Helena with transportation, cargo, and mail (RMS = Royal Mail Ship).  The bulk of the 
RMS' sailings consist of routes between Cape Town, St. Helena, Ascension Island, and back 
to the UK (Cardiff, Wales) — though once a year there's a Cape Town -> Tristan da Cunha 
sailing as well.  The length of the ship is 105m, though I was told by crew members on more 
than one occasion that it was originally meant to be 50m longer, as the shorter size makes it 
rock more in rough seas.  The ship does have two stabilizers though, and they help smooth 
out the ride considerably. The RMS carries a crew of 56, and can hold 128 passengers 
(though most segments had about 95 passengers, as some people prefer to book private 
cabins for themselves at a higher cost).
	The bottom deck of the ship is "C-deck" (where I was staying).  This is the level with 
both the galley and the budget cabins (for 2 or 4 people), though to get from the C-deck 
cabins to the galley, you must first walk up the stairs to B-deck, go to the other side of the 
ship, then walk down another flight of stairs.  There is one lift on board the ship between A, 
B, and the galley side of C deck, but as there's little other exercise available on board, I soon 
found all the stair-climbing a plus.  The cabins on C-deck are of the bunk-bed variety (one 
on top of the other), and while some 4-person cabins have portholes, only one 2-person 
cabin does (C49 — the one I managed to reserve for 3 of the 4 segments).  As the cabins on 
this deck have no en-suite bathroom or shower, there are four communal showers and Mens 
and Ladies toilets nearby.
	"B-deck" is the level passengers embark and disembark the ship on, and is also the 
level with some of the nicest cabins (the Governor of St. Helena and his wife stayed in B-36).  
Located near the entrance is the ship's store (selling St. Helena souvenirs and books, film, 
snacks, laundry soap, toiletries, and other miscellaneous items), the purser's bureau, hotel 
services, and the booth with the satellite phone, a South African cardphone (for use when 
the ship is docked in Cape Town), and an email terminal.  There's also a bathtub and private 
bathroom for anyone to use at the end of the hallway across from cabin B39, but hardly 
anyone even knew it was there.  On both B and A decks, there's a pantry where you can go 
anytime of the day or night to make yourself a cup of tea or coffee.
	"A-deck" has a lot of cabins, a pantry, the ship's laundry (two washers and two dryers 
as well as a drip-dry room — free for anyone to use), public bathrooms, the doctor's office, 
the exercise room (suspiciously right across from the doctor's office — when I mentioned 
that fact later to the doctor, he chuckled), and the main lounge (facing front, though as it's 
in the middle of the ship, there's no view of the water in front).  The exercise room is better 
than nothing, but is by no means a gym: a small room with windows, it has only one 
exercise bike, two "pull-up-bike" machines, one sitting bench, a floor mat, and a scale.  The 
main lounge on A deck has a bar and tables to eat at, but only a small portion is declared 
"non-smoking", and smoke circulates through the entire room.  The small alcove which 
constitutes the non-smoking section has a curtain which can be pulled shut when showing 
videos (there's a TV and VCR), and you can borrow videos from the purser's bureau and 
watch them here late at night, as many people wound up doing.  The ship's reading library 
is also located in this lounge, stocked with a moderate selection of boring books.  The eating 
tables in the lounges have round, sticky peel-off covers placed atop them so your plates and 
cups won't slide when the ship is sailing in rough water, and free tea and coffee is usually 
served here in the afternoons and evenings (as is "afternoon tea" — cookies, cake, and 
tea/coffee, usually from about 3:50pm).  There are two slot machines in the bar area of the 
A-deck lounge as well, though one was currently broken.
	Above A-deck is the "promenade deck", with one expensive cabin (though it's not a 
good place to stay, as it's right by double doors which like to slam shut in the wind), the 
children's playroom (complete with chalkboard and a 13" TV and VCR — if there are no kids 
using the room, you can watch videos in here as well), and the sun lounge (unlike the main 
lounge downstairs which has no doors leading outside, the sun lounge exits out to the sun 
deck and swimming pool).  The sun lounge is also the alternate place to eat breakfast and 
lunch should you opt for a lighter meal than that being served down below in the galley (a 
light breakfast and light buffet-style lunch are served here, as opposed to the full-course 
meals down below).  There's also a bar here, as well as another slot machine by the door out 
to the sun deck.  The sun deck has tables with umbrellas, chairs, and chaise lounges to 
relax on, both in the main rear section as well as a few on the sides of the ship.  The small 
swimming pool (square-shaped) is located here, and though it can be refreshing in warm 
weather, don't expect to swim laps, as it's quite small (it actually uses filtered sea water, 
though you wouldn't know it from swimming in it).  There are some crew accomodations on 
all levels except for A-deck, as well as cabins set aside for clergy ("purple patch") and 
students when they travel on board.
	Above and looking down onto the sun deck is a small balcony with chairs and a 
table, though the "covering" lets the sun through and it's quite easy to get burnt, as the 
tables there have no umbrellas like the ones out on the sun deck.  Further up is the funnel 
deck, where the base of the ship's yellow funnel is located.  The back of this deck is used for 
games such as deck quoits, with the front being where the ship's bridge is (shuffleboard and 
cricket are played down below on the sun deck).
	The RMS keeps an "open bridge" policy, meaning that anyone is free to enter and 
walk around on the bridge at just about any time (unless there's an emergency or special 
meeting going on).  Though this policy is probably a bit of a burden on the officers, it does 
make the sailing quite a bit more interesting for the passengers, and I think perhaps some of 
the officers actually do welcome it at times (as the norm is to have only one officer on duty at 
a time on the bridge, and it can get quite lonely on some shifts... I wound up spending a lot 
of time talking to some of the officers up on the bridge throughout the two sailings).
	The RMS St. Helena is described as a "luxury cargo liner" — a working cruise ship, 
and while I had never been on a cruise ship before, I can tell you that it's definitely not the 
QE2.  On some levels, I'd describe the RMS as a "Motel 6" cruise ship — but that's not quite 
accurate, as the RMS is different than any other ship in the world.  The vessel's primary 
mission is to provide transportation for people and cargo to-and-from St. Helena, but within 
that charter, the staff tries to make the long days at sea enjoyable, and the food served on 
board is quite good.  Even with my accomodations being the "basic" shared type (rather than 
the expensive private cabins), I still felt quite out of place on the ship though, as I'm 
someone who doesn't care for luxury at all, preferring to just get from Point A to Point B in 
the fastest, cheapest, and most practical manner possible (I would have easily opted for a 
dorm on a container liner if one were available).  Still, the staff of the RMS tries hard, and 
the food was teriffic — to give you an idea of some of the food choices, take a look at the 
sample lunch and dinner menus below.  Note though that most of the food uses British 
names (for instance, "pudding" isn't a mousse as Americans would understand the term, but 
rather a cake), and almost everything is rich.  You can order as much of anything (or 
everything) as you like, but it's useless asking for smaller portions of something, as most of 
the time the portions wound up being the same size anyway...

            LUNCH (Jan. 4)                                 DINNER (Jan. 29)
           Jellied Consomme                                 HORS D'OEUVRE:
       Minestrone with Parmesan                         Tristan Crayfish Tails
                 ——                                     Wedges of Brie Cheese                
          Fillet of Haddock                                      SOUPS:                       
         Grilled Lamb Cutlets                          Rich Port and Game Broth
       Cheese and Tomato Omelette                          Cream of Parsnip
     A Wide Selectin of Cold Meats                           MAIN COURSE:
         and Seasonal Salads                      Flour and Butter Grilled Slip Sole
                 ——                                 Prime Fillet Steak O'Brien and
        Ciboulette Potatoes                               Stir Fry Vegetables
            Baby Carrots                             A Wide Selection of Cold Meats
           Roasted Pumpkin                                and Seasonal Salads
                 ——                                           VEGETABLES:
            Bakewell Tart                          Pont Neuf and New Boiled Potatoes
        Chocolate Caramel Slice                             Buttered Leeks
Various Dairy Ice Creams and Sorbets                        Glazed Carrots
                 ——                                            DESSERTS:
            Cheeseboard                             Light Peach and Vanilla Tart
                                                    Lemon Gateau with Dairy Cream
                                                  Sticky Toffee Pudding & Ice Cream
                                                            Coupe Rendezvous
                                                 Various Dairy Ice Creams and Sorbets
                                                      Garlic Sauteed Clams on toast

	 Most costs on board are covered with the fare, though drinks (including sodas and 
squashes) are extra, as are certain other activities such as bingo (tipping is also extra, 
suggested at £0.50/US75c a day for your cabin attendant, dinner server, and bar man).  
Email is available, though file attachments aren't allowed (if you absolutely must send 
attachments, see the purser... you can do it from the machine upstairs, though it'll cost a lot 
more).  As it is, it's quite expensive to send an email or place a call, as both go through 
INMARSAT (the International Maritime Satellite) — and as email is only sent out in packets 
four times a day, there's no web-surfing or access to your own personal email account at 
home (all incoming and outgoing email must go through the ship's own account).  You're 
also instructed not to use the CC: or the BCC: carbon-copy options, though they're available 
if you really want to.  In the end, I never bothered with email myself, as without access to 
my account at home it seemed useless — though a lot of other people made use of the 
	All announcements made on the ship are preceeded by two musical notes (a "B" 
followed by a "B" an octave lower), and lunch and dinner are announced with a silly pre-
recorded tune (a little ditty which sounds similar to what you might hear on a Japanese 
train as it approaches the station).
	Most of the staff and a good portion of the crew on board are "Saints" (native St. 
Helenans), as working on the RMS is one of the few job opportunities available on an island 
with high unemployment.  Except for Carol (who is the ship's only Tristanian), all the 
waiters and waitresses are Saints, as are the cabin attendants, maids, and most of the 
service staff.  While the two captains, the 1st mate, the head pursers and head chef are 
Brits, the 2nd mate (Andrew), a 3rd mate (Jolene), two assistant pursers (Nigel and Carl), 
the head waiter (Tubby), and the galley supervisor (Michael) are Saints.
	Throughout the course of the two sailings, I gained a lot of respect for the staff of the 
RMS: they must put up with people of all different temperments, memorize their names and 
needs, and a few weeks later, start the routine all over again with another set of passengers.  
While the officers have private quarters, the crew must share quarters (two per room), and 
there's never a day off while out at sea.  To the officers as well, my compliments... they also 
have no days off while at sea, and it can't be an easy life for them either.  Saints are 
extremely nice people, and the many hours I would spend talking with the staff and crew of 
the RMS was one of the nicest things about the voyage.
	There were two policies on the RMS which I didn't particularly like: the seating 
proceedure for dinner and the lack of any decent non-smoking areas.  As far as dinner 
seating is concerned, while you're free to sit anywhere for breakfast or lunch (which is 
served both downstairs in the galley as well as upstairs in the sun lounge), you're given a 
specific seat, table, and time (either 6:45pm or 8:00pm) for dinner.  There seems to be some 
confusion as to what determines your dinner time though, with one brochure asking you to 
indicate which sitting you'd prefer, and another mentioning that all passengers staying in 
budget-grade cabins would automatically be given the earlier sitting.  The Captain, most of 
the crew, and all dignitaries are assigned to the later sitting, and while changing from the 
later sitting to the earlier one usually isn't a problem, they generally don't allow those 
assigned to the earlier sitting (ie, budget passengers) to switch and join the later one.  I 
suppose this class separation is an example of the Britishness of the ship, but to me (as an 
American), it seemed absolutely ludicrous here in the 21st century — though for some 
strange reason I was actually given the 8:00pm sitting!
	Because of my assignment to the later sitting, I had dinner with the upper class of 
the ship for the first two nights, and hated every minute of it.  First, the type of people on 
this sitting weren't exactly the best to share a meal with: while nice, most were what I would 
consider to be the stereotypical upper-crust weathly Brit — not the kind of down-to-earth 
person I prefer having a conversation with (as well, there was a loud, drunk Dutch writer 
assigned to my table — she was always either smoking or drinking somewhere on the ship, 
and had a voice that could give anyone a headache).  All of the Saints (as well as most of the 
"normal" folk) were on the first sitting, and while I'm able to walk between the two worlds 
just fine, I vastly prefer to hang with people a bit less conscious and concerned with who 
they are.  As well, 8:00pm was simply too late for me to eat a heavy dinner: with all the 
appetizers being served, the main course wouldn't arrive until 8:30pm or so — not the time I 
like to eat a heavy dinner.
	 After the first few nights, I asked to be switched to the less-stuffy 6:45pm timeslot, 
but even here, my seat and table were pre-assigned — another ridiculous policy that 
deserves to be challenged, and challenged it was.  Over those first few days, a group of about 
8 fellow passengers and myself began to click and hang out together... and we soon decided 
that we should be able to sit together for dinner as well.  Noticing one large table that was 
never used (Table 16), we all decided one night to just to sit down at that table and eat 
together as a group (while it was a South African who first suggested doing it, everyone went 
along — including the Brits in the group).  When the staff came over to see what was going 
on, we all politely pointed out that we were a large group that would like to sit together, and 
this particular table wasn't being used.  The response was "Yes, but this table is never used 
for the first sitting!"  Still, we politely refused to move, and the following day, one of the 
members of our group worked it out with Michael (the galley supervisor) that we could sit at 
that table from then on.  Later, we found out the reason Table 16 is never used for the first 
sitting: it's the table where the Captain and Governor (when he's on board) dine on the 
second sitting — but the other tables have to be cleaned, so one more shouldn't make a 
difference!  Through special arrangemet we were able to sit together and enjoy our dinner, 
but the policy is sorely out-dated and needs to be changed.  I understand the need for 
having two sittings at dinner (the galley can't hold everyone at once, and for breakfast and 
lunch many people choose the sun deck instead), but I don't think it would bring doom to 
the line if people were allowed to choose where and when they can eat their dinner.  Making 
matters worse, the assigned seating chart only put a few people at each table — most with 
only 2-4 people (at my original table, there was only myself and the loud, drunk Dutch 
writer... that's it).  It almost seemed as if they were trying to separate people instead of 
letting everyone enjoy each other's company and conversation.  Though an opportunity is 
given to switch your table for the return sailing, half the trip is over by this time, and the 
seating policy should just be completely abolished.
	The second item that bothered me (and others, as I later found out) was the lack of 
any real non-smoking area on the RMS.  I am quite aware that being from California (with 
some of the world's strictist policies against smoking indoors), my being used to rooms 
without cigarette smoke isn't something the rest of the world is used to — but it was still 
annoying that the only place on the entire ship where you could go to escape cigarette 
smoke was the galley downstairs.  That's it.  Every other place is fair game for smokers, from 
the cabins to the decks to the indoor lounges (as mentioned earlier, there is one section of 
the main lounge set aside for non-smoking, but as it's all just one large room, the smoke 
drifts right into the non-smoking section).  At the end of the trip when we were filling out 
survey cards about the RMS, I was surprised to hear how much the smoke bothered some of 
the others in the group as well, with some of them writing it down as their main complaint 
(one of the South African journalists on the Tristan voyage who had taken the RMS to St. 
Helena a few years ago mentioned he had commented on the lack of non-smoking areas at 
the time, but that nothing had changed).
	 While my luggage was in a crate being lifted onto the ship by a crane, I went to find 
the cabin I'd be staying in: C49.  The small cabin has one set of bunk beds (49B is the lower 
bunk, 49D the upper), two small half-height closets about the size of my backpack (with one 
on top of the other), a set of four thin drawers (two of them lockable), a sink with cup-
holders, a mirror, and small individual flourscent lights and ultra-mini fold-out tables next 
to each bunk.  There's no "desk", but the person in the lower bunk can put his things on top 
of the set of 4 drawers, while the person sleeping in the upper bunk can place some items 
(such as a book or a glass of water) on the windowsil underneath the porthole.  A chain 
suspends the metal covering of the porthole when open, but there never seemed to be a 
reason to close it — and though normally it's above the water line, in rough seas, water 
would often splash against the window.
	First to enter the cabin, I set my things down on the upper bunk (figuring it'd be 
more fun — it was), but the one thing that surprised me was seeing no protective railing on 
the side of the bed to keep you from falling out if the ship hit some rough seas (instead there 
was only a small, removable metal ladder to reach the top bunk).  A few minutes later my 
bunkmate arrived: a talkative Brit in his late 40s or early 50s, Howard had a booming voice 
and a daughter married to an American in Minnesota.  Though a bit loud, he was nice and 
easy to get along with, and as I'd invariably be up late talking or writing, he'd always be 
asleep by the time I'd return to the room.
	With the RMS still in port, I went out on deck and met Pat (one of three Pats on 
board), a 40ish South African in the shoe business who was born on St. Helena but hadn't 
been back for over 30 years (he and his wife were waving to their kids down below on the 
docks).  Next, I met another Pat: a 60ish South African (originally from Britain) in the 
publishing business, she was taking the trip mostly to cruise, and would spend only one day 
on St. Helena itself, opting to instead stay on board the ship while it ferried between St. 
Helena and Ascension.  Most of the passengers for this voyage were either British tourists, 
Saints returning home, or South African tourists — and other than a doctor originally from 
Germany but now living in Conneticut, I was the only American on board.  Walking into the 
lounge, I met a middle-aged couple from Germany... the wife was quite nice, but the 
husband was ranting on about how they wouldn't let him send file attachments in his email 
(on board the ship for only a few minutes and already it's the end of the world if he can't 
send emails with file attachments).
	While still tied to the dock, many people were at the side of the ship waving to their 
friends and family below (just like a scene out of a movie).  As the ship was getting ready to 
leave, an announcement was made that a stowaway search would take place, and one soon 
did.  This isn't just an exercise: about a year ago, a 16yr-old recently-orphaned Hutu named 
Alain Hakizmana escaped Tutsi soldiers in his native Burundi by making his way through 
Zambia into South Africa.  Once in the country, he travelled down to Cape Town by truck, 
and managed to stow away aboard the RMS St. Helena (having no idea what it was or where 
it went).  Hiding in the top compartment of the funnel, he managed to evade the routine 
stowaway search, and lived on a diet of apples which he'd stolen from the dockside.  Once 
discovered, a pass-around kitty from the passengers raised £257/US$385 to help him buy 
clothes, and upon finally reaching St. Helena, he asked for political asylum (though he has 
since left the island).
	Suddenly, some music began to play over the loudspeaker... first, it was a St. Helena 
song... then another piece... then to the music of "Pomp and Circumstance" the ship took 
off, with everyone waving as we left the Cape Town docks.  Once underway, the crew asked 
all passengers on board for the first time to grab their life preservers (located under the bed 
in the cabins) and assemble in the sun lounge for a lesson on how to use them, as well as a 
lecture on general safety and a reading of the ship's rules.
	Out on deck I ran into two gals wearing "St. Helena" sweatshirts, and when asking 
one where she bought hers, was smartly told "St. Helena, of course... well, you walked into 
that one!"  The two girls were British teachers returning from holiday to their 2-year contract 
jobs as school teachers on the island, and with them also was Mike, another ex-pat 
instructor who teaches science at Prince Andrew School.  Though Mike said the pay on St. 
Helena isn't as good as that available in Britain, the tax-free income afforded to ex-pat 
teachers (along with other benefits such as free housing) is actually far higher than a 
similiarly-qualified Saint would receive, and the income disparity between ex-pats and locals 
was definitely a sore point with the Saints.  Mike also hosts the weekly Classical Hour on 
Radio St. Helena (pre-taped for broadcast on Sunday, with a repeat on Wednesday), and 
when he found out I was a violinist, asked me a few days later if I wouldn't mind dropping 
by to do a show with him (I gladly accepted, as seeing the island's one radio station was 
something I had very much hoped to do).
	Out in the back I met Peter, a South African journalist who writes movie reviews for 
one of the local Cape Town papers as well as travel articles for the South African AMEX 
travel magazine (among others).  It wasn't long before we were into a great conversation 
about travel, life, and some of the places we've visited, though as I returned with a bit of 
lunch from the upstairs sun lounge, Peter began to feel quite sea-sick, even though the 
water was smooth and calm.
	All of a sudden, steam with black soot shot out of the funnel, and a few moments 
later we heard an announcement that there was engine trouble: the bearing in the turbo 
blower was busted, and we'd be returning to the water off Robben Island to try to make 
repairs.  "Uh-oh," I thought, "not again!"  The ship breaking down last year was the reason I 
had to wait a year to get to these islands, and it looked as if there'd be trouble ahead.  I was 
later told by some of the crew that no one was happy with the engines used on the ship — 
but because its funding came from the British Government, certain requirements had to be 
met (such as having a certain percentage of the ship manufactured in the UK)... while the 
crew all wanted Japanese engines, they were instead given ones that have since proved to be 
nothing but trouble.
	After turning around for the water off Robben Island, a new announcement was made 
that we'd slowly be heading back to J Berth at the Cape Town docks and would go back to 
port.  Sitting down inside to talk with some Brits and South Africans at afternoon tea (we 
would later become the "Table 16" group), I joked that I was the one jinxing the ship, as I 
was scheduled to take last year's doomed voyage.  Though it then became a running gag 
throughout the trip, I wasn't the only one who had been re-scheduled from the previous 
year: there were many others (including John and Cecelia) booked on the St. Helena and 
Tristan sailings last year who had to reschedule for this year when the RMS broke down in 
November of 1999.
	Over some biscuits (cookies), another announcement was made that a tour of Cape 
Point (one of the southern-most points in Africa) had been arranged for tomorrow for anyone 
interested, but I wasn't happy: while today had been a beautiful day, tomorrow's forecast 
called for rain — and with tomorrow being both a Sunday and New Years Eve, there would 
be very little in town open and very little else to do.
	Arriving back at Duncan Docks, it was announced there'd be an hourly shuttle 
service between J dock and the V&A for those passengers wishing to go to the V&A — 
though after all the times I walked between the V&A and the docks trying to find the RMS I 
certainly didn't need a shuttle, and didn't wait for one.  After collecting my passport from the 
purser's bureau (we had turned them in earlier and were supposed to get them back 
tomorrow — at least we didn't have to go through immigration again), I left the ship at 
5:30pm to walk to the V&A.  Even though it was late in the afternoon, the walk to the V&A 
was facing the sun — and as I had left my cap on the ship, I wound up getting quite a 
sunburn on my forehead.
	Passing the Telkom shop, I thought about using their internet service... but at a rate 
of R12.50/US$1.67 for 15mins, decided it was too expensive.  One thing I did need to do 
though was get some British pounds: the only currency accepted on board the RMS is the 
pound (either British or the equivalent St. Helenan), and though rands and dollars can be 
changed on the ship, the rate (especially for US$) was extremely bad (with the current 
exchange rate at £1=US$1.47, the ship was offering a rate of £1=US$1.70).  At the first 
ForEx shop I asked at, I couldn't buy pounds with US$ travellers checks unless I first 
converted the US$ to rand, then converted the rand to pounds for a poor final rate.  However 
the lady at another ForEx shop suggested I use a credit card — as if it's done that way, the 
ForEx shop only converts from rands to pounds (with your credit card at home doing the 
dollar-to-rand conversion, usually at the official rate of exchange + 1%).  I wound up taking 
out £340 (about US$510), and sure enough, received a decent rate of £1=US$1.50 (which 
became £1=US$1.55/US$531 after going through my credit card — but was still much 
better than the 1.70 rate used on the ship).  I later found out about a better option though 
(and used it myself a few times): take a cash advance on your credit card right on the ship.  
If you do this, they charge only a 1% commission, and other than that, you only have to deal 
with the exchange rate your credit card uses (usually the official rate + 1%).
	When finished changing money, I walked around the V&A some more (not having 
anything else to do)... looking inside the CNA bookstore, I almost bought a "Learn Xhosa" 
book, but in the end passed on the idea.  Going into the Pic 'N Pay, I bought some hot 
macaroni and cheese, but soon made my way to St. Elmos for a decent slice of pizza 
(R7.95/US$1.06) and a milkshake (R4.90/US65c)... walking past the Ster-Kinekor cinema 
at the V&A, I noticed the prices were R26.50 for the 8pm show, and R24 for the 10pm show 
(last year the cinema chain dropped their prices from R25 to R18 nationwide — had they 
since raised their prices again, or was it just the V&A cimema charging the higher prices?)  
In the end, I opted against seeing a movie (missing "Billy Elliot" being shown on board the 
ship as well).
	As most of the V&A stores closed at 9:00pm, I decided to head back for the ship at 
9:20pm (I didn't even call Kritz to let him know I was back in Cape Town because I had no 
idea how long the ship would be in port, and at this point with everyone on board just 
starting to know each other, I didn't want to be a stranger on the ship).
	Walking through the dock area at night, I arrived back at the RMS too late for dinner, 
but ran into some of the group down in the galley.  Grabbing some grapes, we talked for a 
bit until it was time for the staff to clean up.  At that point, I went outside onto the sun deck 
to write in my journal, not going to sleep until 12:40am.

Dec. 31: Cape Town / RMS St. Helena [St. Helena Info]
	I didn't sleep well last night — though there was nothing wrong with the cabin, it was 
disconcerting to sleep aboard a ship while motionless and docked next to land.  Shortly 
before 7:00am our cabin attendant Colin came in to wake us up and bring tea or coffee 
(yesterday when he asked what I preferred, I first said tea, but from this morning on, asked 
if he could instead bring orange juice).  Delivered each morning with the beverage is the 
"Ocean Mail", the daily color injet-printed newspaper of the ship which would list the day's 
planned activities along with any other important information (a copy was also always 
posted up by the purser's bureau).
	A normal galley breakfast on the RMS consists of a buffet table of fruit, muffins, 
yoghurt, juices and cold cereal, as well as your choice of a hot meal (oatmeal, toast, eggs, 
fish, etc).  Uptairs in the sun lounge, the light self-serve breakfast would typically include 
cake or muffins, as well as yoghurt, toast, and jam.  Though the normal galley breakfast 
usually starts at 8:00am, everything was pushed up a bit this morning due to the Cape 
Point tour departing at 8:30am.
	The bus tour around Cape Point today was scheduled to last from 8:30am to 4:00pm, 
and would be covering old ground for me: though I hadn't previously made it as far as Cape 
Point, the drive out there through areas such as Clifton and Simons Town would be a repeat 
of not only what I had done last year, but what I had just done with Judith two days ago as 
	On the bus I sat down next to an older South African (originally from Scotland) 
named James, who wound up being the comedian in our group and a genuinely nice person.  
From the window we could see some locals selling firewood by the side of the road — our 
tour guide commented that Australian acacia trees had been introduced to the area but had 
taken over much of the other vegetation, so people are allowed to chop it down and sell it as 
firewood.  The last stretch of the drive out to Cape Point went through a game reserve, 
though we could only spot a few animals far off in the distance.  The weather today was 
grey, and with it looking as if it would rain soon, wasn't the best day to be out on a bus tour.
	Finally reaching Cape Point, we left the bus to look around the area.  There's a 
funicular up the hill to a lookout point on top, but though we were given round-trip tickets, I 
opted to walk up instead (though I took it down later).  Cape Point is often mistakenly 
referred to as the southern-most point of Africa... it's actually the second southern-most 
point, as there's another area not too far away which is technically further south.  It's still 
an interesting area to explore though, with the funicular, the lookout, old and new 
lighthouses, plenty of birds, and (if the weather is good), some nice views.
	At the top of the hill is not only a souvenir shop, but a kiosk where you can send 
someone an email with a file attachment of yourself at Cape Point for R30/US$4.  Passing 
on the gift shop, I continued towards the old lighthouse: this was the original lighthouse of 
the area, but its location high on the hill wasn't a good idea, for in heavy fog ships couldn't 
see it.  After a ship crashed onto the rocks, a newer automated lighthouse was built down 
below closer to sea level, and it is this lower lighthouse which is still in use today.
	When finished looking around the lighthouse, I continued walking down a trail 
towards the sea which is definitely worth taking: at the end of it (where you're not allowed to 
continue unless you have permission) are some great views of the cliff and birds nesting in 
the holes in the rocks.  Though it was now misting intermittently, at least it was only a light 
	Returning back to the gift shop I had a look around, but as with such shops 
anywhere in the world, everything was overpriced, especially for South Africa (a polo-style 
shirt was R240/US$32, and a cap was R75/US$10).  With prices this high, I wondered if the 
people working here even earned enough money to buy the items they sold (as these weren't 
fancy souvenirs but just items such as shirts and caps).  Asking one of the employees (a 
white guy in his early 20s) if he wouldn't mind telling me how much he made per hour, he 
told me it was R12.50/US$1.67 — which meant he'd have to work for almost 20 hours in 
order to earn enough to buy one of the shirts here.
	After having a look around the gift shop, I took the funicular down to the Two Oceans 
Restaurant below where we were meeting for lunch: the meal (a nice fish stew) was paid for, 
but not the drinks (I ordered a Schweppes Bitter Lemon — one of my favorite soft drinks, 
which isn't sold in the US).  When lunch was finished, we took shelter inside another 
overpriced gift shop as heavy rain suddenly began to fall.  Boarding the bus a few minutes 
later, the rain continued as we left Cape Point, but at least it waited until we were ready to 
	Back on the bus, I noticed the indelible paint on James' thumb (the sign that he had 
voted in South Africa's recent elections) — and even though it had been over a month now, 
the mark was still visible.  While driving back into town the rain turned to drizzle again, and 
by 4:00pm, we were back at the ship.
	This morning we had been told that as repairs were only expected to take a few 
hours, we should all be on board the ship by 5:00pm for a 6:00pm departure.  However 
upon returning back, we found that this wasn't to be: the ship was still broken, and we were 
now being assured of an 8:00am departure tomorrow morning.  Many of us doubted this 
information for a few reasons: first, some of the passengers had heard from the crew that 
the Captain prefers to leave during the day rather than at night (so as to give passengers a 
chance to get used to the water during daylight hours) — and those of us who were hoping 
to be at sea for New Years Eve were pretty mad if indeed the engines were already fixed and 
the only reason we weren't leaving tonight was so people could adjust to the sea better.  The 
other reason the information sounded fishy was the thought that technicians in South 
Africa wouldn't be out working on a Sunday night that also happened to be New Years Eve 
as well.  With no say in the matter though, we all resigned ourselves to the fact that our true 
Millennium New Years 2001 would be anything but stellar: the planned New Years dance (at 
10:30pm) was still scheduled, but most people wound up going to the V&A in the evening 
	The shuttle between J berth and the V&A was running every hour (on the half-hour 
returning), and because of the recent rain, I decided to take the 5:00pm shuttle over to the 
V&A instead of walking it — though the clouds were now dissipating and it would turn out 
to be a nice, clear late afternoon.  Arriving at 5:20pm (with the traffic it would have been just 
as fast to walk), I went first to the expensive Telkom office to use their internet connection 
(R12.50/US$1.67 for 15mins — telnet is allowed).  When finished, I asked at the window to 
buy a telephone card as well, and the employee only charged me for the card and not for the 
internet time.  In such situations I would normally volunteer that they needed to charge me, 
but having paid Telkom's high rates for calls this year and last — and with their incredibly 
high (for South Africa) internet cafe rates, I decided that if they weren't going to charge me 
this time, that would be fine with me.  A bit later I discovered that the cinema at the V&A 
has their own internet cafe at a rate of R7.50/US$1 for 15mins, though by that time they 
were about to close, and I had already checked my email anyway.
	Because it was both a Sunday and New Years, most of the stores (which generally 
stay open until 9:00pm) were closing early (at 6:00pm - 6:30pm). This wasn't good news, as 
walking around the V&A was about the only thing left to do tonight (though a few stores did 
stay open until normal closing time, including Woolworths and Edgars).  Curious if the 
salary of the souvenir shop employee this morning was typical, I asked a young white 
saleslady working at the Ngwenya Glass shop if she could tell me how much she makes per 
hour, and her reply was "around R20" (R20=US$2.66).
	Going back to St. Elmos for some pizza (the peri-peri chicken slices are excellent), I 
watched some of the bands playing in the small outside ampatheatre, but with it now being 
a pleasant evening, I decided to walk around and explore some of the different parts of the 
V&A.  There were a lot of private New Years parties going on: at one of the fancy hotels a 
guard was keeping everyone but invited guests out, and parties were being held on board 
some of the smaller ships as well (including the Meteor, a large German research vessel 
which visits Antarctica).  This evening's walk actually turned out to be the most enjoyable 
part of the day, for the weather had cleared, and in the sky was a beautiful sunset of orange, 
purple and grey.
	Walking back to the ship under the beautiful sky, I was back in the galley downstairs 
at 8:10pm for the 8:00pm dinner sitting.  As there was only two of us assigned to Table 4 
(the loud drunk Dutch writer and myself), I convinced her we should join some people at 
another table... getting up, we sat down at the table where the wealthy German couple and a 
stereotypical "proper" British couple were sitting.  While nice people, the conversation was 
bland and boring, and between the type of people and the late meal time, I knew I'd have to 
change to the 6:45pm sitting.  As would be the case with most nights, the dinner was 
excellent, but way too rich (I was probably the only one on board who would have preferred 
lighter meals).
	Most nights on the RMS had some sort of planned entertainment (generally starting 
at 9:15pm-9:30pm so those on the 8:00pm sitting could have enough time to finish their 
meal), and consisted of various events ranging from quiz nights to bingo to "frog racing."  
While none of it was what you'd call exciting, it did usually serve its purpose of helping to 
pass the time in the evenings and make the trip a bit less mundane.  For many of the 
activities we were asked to form teams in groups of 6-8 people, with the winning team 
usually receiving two bottles of champagne.  Tonight would be the first quiz show of the 
voyage (hosted by 2nd purser Nigel): a "sound" quiz consisting of 23 sound clips played on 
the stereo of everything from music to speeches (with our task to identify the clips and 
answer obscure questions about them).  As our team tied with another to win, both teams 
received a bottle of champagne.
	Though the ship's New Years Eve party was going on in the main lounge (complete 
with a few neon lights and lights around the dance floor), I was also invited down to the 
officer's area on B-deck for the crew's New Years Eve party (probably because I wasn't part 
of the retired set — the music upstairs was gentle oldies, but downstairs with the younger 
crew, it was pure rock).  Going down at 11:30pm for a look, I soon found myself in a small 
room with an even smaller dance area, with loud music blasting and people dancing.  I 
joined in for a while, dancing with some of the Saints on the crew before talking to some of 
the other passengers down below (including an Australian who works at Cable & Wireless on 
the island).
	At 12:00am midnight I went upstairs just in time to hear the bell being rung 16 times 
(8 for the old year, 8 for the new), though I just missed the fireworks that were shot off at 
the V&A (apparently they only lasted three minutes, though some people were shooting up 
unofficial flares afterwards).  In the main lounge where the official New Years Eve dance was 
taking place, a man dressed up as Old 2000 walked away as a girl dressed as New 2001 
came in, and after a short look around, I soon returned to the party down below.
	After a while I left the crew dance to walk upstairs, where I found some nice 
conversation with Mike (the ex-pat teacher) and Carl (the Saint 3rd purser, who also had his 
daughter with him).  While the discussion touched on everything from the recent US election 
to music, it also included a lot of St. Helena politics, and was the first of many times I'd hear 
of the problems and issues facing the island today...
	The island of St. Helena is considered a British Overseas Territory, and up until the 
early 1980s Saints had full British citizenship, being able to enter and leave the UK freely.  
However, fears of heavy Chinese immigration to Britain after the Hong Kong handover 
prompted the British Government to pass legislation in the 1980s revoking the citizenship 
rights of its overseas territories — and from 1983 onwards, Saints were lumped in with 
Hong Kong Chinese to be classified only as British Dependent Territory citizens, with 
severely limited rights.  As things stand today, Saints still have only limited British 
citizenship, and can generally stay in the UK for only 6 months at a time — less than a 
German or French citizen can.  Irking them is that they were once full British citizens, but 
had their citizenship taken away on account of Hong Kong — and while the British 
Government saw fit to reinstate citizenship for residents of the Falkland Islands (because of 
the war there), they have yet to do so for the Saints (who are ironically among the most pro-
British patriots I've ever met).  The British Government doesn't seem to be opposed to 
reinstatement of full citizenship for Saints, but always seems to table the idea each time an 
opportunity arises.  Due to the lack of movement on the part of the UK Government, a group 
of Saints took the issue to the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization in July 
2000, but it remains to be seen if anything will come of it.  For those interested, the brief 
submitted by the Citizenship Commission of St. Helena to the U.N. is avaiable in pamphlet 
form for £2/US$3 — the ISBN number is: 0 9527499 4 7.  While on board the RMS I 
purchased a copy of this pamphlet, and it explains not only the Saints' desire for full 
citizenship again, but realistic goals for decolonization:
	  Three legitimate options exist for decolonization:
	 * Independence (not economically feasible for St. Helena)
	 * Integration (not socially or demographically appropriate for St. Helena)
       * Association (the free choice of the people of St. Helena)

	  St. Helenians desire a relationship with the UK modelled on that of the Channel 
Islands and the Isle of Man.  The main components of the desired associatin with the UK are:
	 * Internal self-government
	 * Full British citizenship
	 * Equal access to UK economic rights and benefits
	 * Equal bearing on taxation and other obligations of British citizenship
       * Representation in the British Parliament

	 Another subject talked about that evening was the recently-finished Governors Cup 
yacht race (Cape Town to St. Helena): the British Government appoints a new Governor to 
oversea St. Helena and its dependant islands (Tristan da Cunha and Ascension) every few 
years, and it has been tradition for the Governor to host a reception for the race's 
participants at Plantation House, the historic mansion where the Governor lives.  With a 
new Governor and wife though, this time instead of being invited inside the house, the 
yachtsmen who had sailed for days to reach St. Helena were served snacks under a canvus 
tent out on the lawn, being refused entry into the manor even to go to the bathroom 
(instead, a porty-potty was placed outside).  The canvus tent in fact was borrowed from the 
customs area for the event and returned to the docks when finished.  This made not only 
the yachtsmen furious, but the Saints as well (on board the RMS were some copies of last 
week's St. Helena News with this as the top story — not only because the Saints feel that 
Plantation House belongs to the island not to whomever is currently occupying it, but 
because it made the island appear less-than-friendly to the visiting yachtsmen and the 
outside world).  To be fair, I wound up spending a lot of time with the Governor and his wife 
over the next few weeks, and he's not a bad fellow (as most Saints believe, I suspect it wasn't 
the Governor but his wife who made the decision not to allow anyone inside... I was later 
told that when the Governor's wife is off the island, the Governor opens the doors to 
Plantation House to see people there — but as soon as his wife returns, the doors become 
closed again).  In the race, there was one yacht with Saints on board, but even though it 
arrived first it didn't win because of the handicaps against it.  Returning back from St. 
Helena a few weeks later, some of the yachts were placed on the deck of the RMS for 
transportation back to Cape Town, as the prevailing winds and currents make sailing in that 
direction much harder than in the Cape Town -> St. Helena direction.
	Talking late into the night, the three of us didn't break up until 2:00am — and I then 
went to the cabin to get my journal, which I wrote in until 2:30am.  Finally, I went to sleep 
at about 2:45am.

Jan. 1: RMS [Bridge Tour]
	Having gone to bed at 2:45am last night, I was asleep for only 4 hours before Colin 
came into the cabin at 6:50am to set down the tea and juice.  At 7:50am an announcement 
was made that a stowaway search would soon commence, and at 8:05am a tug boat came 
alongside to help us clear the dock.  We were finally leaving once more, and (as always the 
case when about to depart) the ship's A-major-chord horn was tooted three times.
	This morning I did some laundry while using the exercise room, as they're quite close 
to each other (the laundry machines on the ship are decent and the dryers fast).  Since 
there's no treadmill on the ship, I settled for two 30 minute sessions on the exercise cycle — 
but as I normally get my exercise by running rather than cycling, it was a bit different than 
what I was used to, and probably shouldn't have used it for so long.
	While docked in Cape Town, bottled water had to be used on board the ship (some 
was delivered to each cabin), as the RMS' desalinization/filtering system isn't active while in 
port.  Once out at sea, the water on the ship (taken from the ocean) isn't bad, and the RMS 
uses 35 tons of it every day for everything from drinking to food preparation (though the 
toilets are vacuum-flush, they use some water as well).  The toilet stalls in the bathroom 
have doors which stick shut so as to prevent them from swinging back and forth as the ship 
travels, and the nearby shower doors require a large metal pin and hook to keep them open 
when not in use.
	Sitting out on the sun deck I began talking to Kevin and Cel, a middle-aged couple 
originally from Zimbabwe but now living in South Africa (with bad timing, Kevin had just 
injured his leg, and would be forced to use a crutch for the duration of the trip).  At one 
time, both were policemen in Zimbabwe, but they now live and work in other fields in South 
Africa (Cel works for a textile magazine) and were sailing to St. Helena with the thought of 
perhaps settling there.  Both were tired of life in South Africa (as Kevin put it: "I was never a 
racist until I came to South Africa"), and since the St. Helena Government makes it difficult 
for outsiders to immigrate unless you can provide jobs or opportunities for the island, they 
were considering various ideas, including that of starting a vinyard.
	I then talked a bit to Morris and his wife Pat, a nice retired couple from the UK.  This 
would be an interesting trip for them, as Morris had worked for the British Government 
installing radio equipment at various consulates, and the couple had been stationed on St. 
Helena thirty years ago.  They were now returning for the first time in three decades to re-
visit the island and see some of their old friends.
	Soon the core of a group began to form, and besides myself, included Kevin and Cel, 
Pat and Morris, Pat (the South African lady in the magazine business), James (the nice 
retired fellow living in Pretoria), and Peter (the South African journalist) — unlike the later 
Tristan sailing which had a much stuffier clientele, this St. Helena sailing had plenty of nice 
people, and many friends were made.
	Taking a short walk to visit the ship's store (located near the purser's bureau), I 
bought one white and one blue "RMS St. Helena" polo shirt (£14.95/US$22.43 each) before 
returning back out to the sun deck.  The pool wasn't available yet, but was being filled and 
emptied for cleaning (as with the drinking water on board, the pool uses desalinated/filtered 
sea water, and the ship must be at sea for it to be operational).
	For lunch downstairs the main course was way too heavy, so I opted to have just two 
bowls of cream of asparagus soup and some delicious sorbet for dessert (upstairs on the sun 
deck is a lighter buffet lunch, but soup is only available downstairs in the galley).
	Earlier in the morning I signed up for a tour of the bridge, and at 2:00pm, showed up 
for the tour... though the ship operates with an open bridge policy, this was a chance to find 
out everything there is to know about the ship in detail.  Andrew (the Saint 2nd mate) 
conducted the tour, and imparted a lot of information about the ship: the RMS can carry 
1,800 tons of cargo of just about any type, and though this trip's load was relatively light, 
we had some animals and explosives on board... though fuel can be carried in an 
emergency, St. Helena usually receives its oil supply by special tanker which docks at 
Ruperts Bay, just off to the side of Jamestown... the RMS' two main cranes can lift 12.5 tons 
of cargo each, or 25 tones in tandem... the maximum number of passengers is not 128 as 
the brochure states, but 132 (there was to be 100 on this sailing, though with 2 not showing 
up the passenger total was 98 — along with a crew of 52)... the staff on the bridge work in 4-
hour increments twice a day (4 hours work, 8 hours off, 4 hours work, 8 hours off) and 
never receive a day off while at sea... and generally there will be only one bridge officer on 
duty at a time.
	The bridge area was filled with all sorts of equipment and instruments, including a 
two computerized radar screens, a gyro compass, a set of radios, a shortwave receiver (to 
give both the bridge and cabins their live BBC feed — in-cabin audio was a choice of pre-
recorded music or the BBC), weather FAX, NAVTEX text printer (which reports on dangers 
out at sea, such as a container vessel which recently lost 5 tied-together containers off of 
Robben Island), the auto-pilot, engine status displays, stabilizer controls, GPS, VHF and 
satellite radio-phones, echo sounder, and depth gauge (as just a partial list).
	The RMS generally goes at a speed of 15-16 knots (about 27mph), which is pretty 
slow if you think about it.  There are matching speed displays both outside over the bridge 
door and on the bridge itself which give a somewhat-inaccurate reading by detecting the 
speed of water running over a sensor... much more accurate is the satellite GPS receiver on 
the desk behind the bridge, which shows the ship's true speed.
	Most of the time the RMS operates on auto-pilot (a large console at the center of the 
bridge which is hooked up to the compass, GPS, and other equipment), and while there's a 
manual override, the only time I witnessed anyone steering manually was during a bit of 
training in the evenings.  In place of a traditional wooden steering wheel, the RMS has a tiny 
car wheel taken from a Ford Capri stuck onto the auto-pilot unit... this becomes the steering 
wheel when the auto-pilot is disengaged.
	The ship has two engines (thank goodness, as they always seem to be breaking), and 
as talk turned to them, everyone asked Andrew what really happened: not only had the 
starboard engine lost its turbo-charger, but there was a problem with the port engine as well 
(for those not familiar with the terms, "port" is the left side of the ship when facing forward, 
and "starboard" the right).  Not as serious as the broken turbo-charger, Andrew said the 
port engine problem could have been fixed out at sea had we not had to return to Cape 
Town for the more serious turbo-charger breakdown — but the fact that both engines were 
having problems didn't exactly instill confidence in the ship (especially with the RMS' recent 
breakdown last year).
	To help smooth the ride on a ship that's somewhat small and susceptible to rough 
seas, the RMS has two computer-controlled stabilizers (one each for the port and starboard 
sides)... only 2.5 meters long, they manage to keep the ship from rocking more than it does, 
and can be seen sticking out into the water below.
	Because of modern technology, there's no need for a separate "radio man" anymore, 
so whomever is on duty (the 3rd mate, 1st mate, etc.) takes on the responsibilites for the 
radio as well.  Mentioning the training required to become an officer, Andrew said you must 
attend a maritime college for four years before being able to obtain the position of 3rd mate 
— after which you can move up with training on board the ship (standard practice is that 
officers are able to take over a job one position higher than theirs — so the 3rd mate is 
trained and capable of handling the duties of a 2nd mate, and can also train to obtain the 
status of 1st mate).
	As the RMS keeps an open bridge policy, the tour wound up lasting until 3:15pm as 
people just stayed on the bridge to ask Andrew more questions.  Walking back down to the 
sun deck afterwards, I noticed the pool had now been filled, but most people were just lying 
out in the sun, not seeming to mind if they got burned or not.
	There were many interesting couples on board the ship, including an older Brit with a 
Russian lady he met over the internet, as well as a retired Scottish vet named Linda and her 
fiance Len (a Brit).  Linda's daughter married a Saint and now lives on the island, and Linda 
and Len were visiting the island for the first time with arrangements to get married there 
themselves (they'd be staying longer than just one week).  Talking to them, I again was 
reminded of the fact that we had lost almost two days because of the ship's engine problems 
— as instead of arriving early morning on the 4th as planned, we wouldn't be arriving on St. 
Helena until late afternoon on the 5th.
	There are three levels of dress on board the ship, and the daily Ocean Mail would list 
the "rig of the day" that officers would follow (with it being suggested you take your dress 
cues from them).  While shorts are fine during the day, dressing up for dinner is suggested 
— though as far as I was concerned, with the RMS being the only option to reach St. Helena, 
it was nothing but transportation to me, and I wasn't about to start worrying over what to 
wear: I almost always wore a short-sleeve shirt and shorts unless it was cold, and even for 
dinner, would often still have shorts on if I hadn't yet gotten around to changing into long 
slacks for the evening (and as the only shoes I brought with me were sandals and jogging 
shoes, I always wore the sandals on board the ship).  Though most passengers would dress 
up a bit more, there were still others (including some Brits such as my roommate) who also 
dressed as casually.  The one formal item I did bring with me though was an old tie, as it 
was light, took no space, and could easily be given away (as I wound up doing) when no 
longer needed.
	At 6:00pm tonight was the first of four Captain's cocktail parties I'd attend.  Held in 
the main lounge, the Captain and most of the officers would line up near the entrance and 
greet you as you walk in (then mingle so you can talk with them for a bit).  It's the one time 
complimentary drinks are served (though I had only some Schweppes Bitter Lemon), along 
with plenty of finger-food (pizza pieces, hot-dog chunks on toothpicks, pork balls, potato 
chips, etc.) — and as an American not used to the full, rich meals served on the ship, I 
actually felt more at home having the finger-food than dinner down in the galley.  The 
cocktail party was one of the events where formal dress was suggested, so I dressed up the 
most I could with what I had: long pants, a long-sleeve shirt and a tie — though as a few 
people noticed, I still had my sandals on (hey, at least I made an effort).  Talking with the 
ship's electrical engineer, he told me everyone wished certain things on the ship (especially 
the engines) had been built by others — but because the British Government supplied the 
funding for the RMS, 80% of her had to be British-built.  The party was crowded and noisy 
but nice, with everyone on board able to mingle, meet each other, and talk with the crew 
and Captain as well.  Those with 8:00pm dinner sittings could stay later, but soon the 
music announcing the 6:45pm sitting went off, and those on the earlier meal slowly made 
their way down to the galley.
	Tonight at dinner I went to the 6:45pm sitting, but even though there were plenty of 
empty seats, had to explain in detail that I need to be at the earlier sitting because 8:00pm 
was too late for me (and I was never given an option to choose as many people had been).  
So just for tonight, they sat me next to James and two nice, older Swiss ladies (much better 
company, and a much better time to eat at as well).  After tonight though, our little group 
would sit together for dinner at Table 16 (myself, Pat/UK, Pat/SA, James, Kevin, Cel, and 
Peter).  For me, the highlight of the meal tonight was the spicy St. Helena fish soup — and 
though I ordered seconds, I could easily have had fourths (especially as the soup bowls 
aren't very deep).
	As would be the case with most nights, there was a video short at 8:00pm for the 
6:45pm dinner passengers to watch while the 8:00pm passengers ate their meal, but I 
actually never wound up watching one of them, and as soon as dinner was over tonight, I 
walked out onto the sun deck with some others to watch the sunset.  When it was time for 
the video to start most everyone else went inside, but I stayed out to see the after-sunset 
colors, sitting down and staring up at the clouds, the fading orange sky, and the stars.
	Out on deck I had my small, pocket-sized Sangean MS-101 shotwave radio with me, 
and though I hardly used it during the trip (except to occasionally listen to static with 
earbuds at night to drown out snoring), I tried to see what stations I could receive.  I was 
more than surprised to pick up not only the Johannesburg talk station on 702AM, but FM 
stations as well (as FM has a substantially shorter range than AM).  Curious as to where we 
might be, I walked up to bridge to find out... there, the young lady on the bridge welcomed 
me inside, and when I asked how far we'd travelled, found out that as of 8:45pm tonight 
(about 12 hours after leaving Cape Town), we had covered a distance of only 187 miles.  At 
our current speed of 16 knots, we were basically chugging along at only 27mph, and it 
didn't sink in until right then just how slow ship travel really is.
	Back down on the sun deck, I was able to pick up the African service of the VOA 
clearly, and listened for a bit before turning it off to lie back and enjoy the quiet.  After a 
while, I went back down to the main lounge for a game of Tombola (a variation of Bingo, 
where a book of 5 games costs you £2/US$3)... though I didn't win, it was fun and helped to 
pass the time.  When the game was over I tried my luck on the lounge's slot machine, losing 
£2/US$3 pretty fast (at £0.10/US15c a spin), though I then went upstairs to try one of the 
two slot machines in the sun lounge, and soon had BAR/BAR/BAR, deciding to leave while I 
was £2/US$3 ahead.
	By now most people had turned in... Peter had gone to bed early, still feeling seasick 
(even though the ocean was quite calm)... at the bar upstairs, Beth (one of the ex-pat 
teachers) was talking island gossip with Paul (the Australian working at Cable & Wireless on 
the island), and commented that on St. Helena, everyone knows everything about everyone 
else (it certainly is true).  Clocks would be retarded by one hour tonight (St. Helena time is 
GMT — two hours behind Cape Town), so after setting my watch back an hour, I turned in 
for the night.

Jan. 2: RMS [St. Helena Info]
	Even with the extra hour of sleep from setting the clock back, I was up early at 
5:20am.  Doing two 30 minute sessions on the exercise cycle this morning, I wound up 
straining my right knee, as I wasn't used to the bending motion from the cycle.  This wasn't 
the way I wanted to start my trip, but it was frustrating being served large, rich meals and 
having no other way to exercise on the ship.  Finding it difficult to walk now, I wound up 
using the lift when I could — but I had to use stairs both to get to my cabin on C-deck as 
well as to the Promenade deck, as the lift only covers decks A, B, and C on the galley side.
	After breakfast I took the one book I brought with me ("The Hunt for Red October") 
outside to begin reading it, but Peter soon came over, and we began to talk about various 
things from his recent trip to Antarctica to the current state of journalism in South Africa.  A 
bit later I sat by the pool to soak my sore knee, though at 11:30am, I went to the sun lounge 
to attend a meeting on St. Helena held by the British head purser and his Saint assistant 
Nigel.  Various topics about the island were discussed, including shops' opening hours, how 
to change money on an island with no banks, and the tours available for visitors.  On the 
subject of tours, the purser asked all people interested in taking some to write their name 
down on a clipboard by 5:00pm (no obligation) so the person running them (Basil George of 
Magma Tours) could have an idea of how many people to expect.  As far as money goes, the 
St. Helena pound is pegged to the British pound, and though St. Helenan money isn't 
accepted anywhere else, the British pound is freely used on the island (good news for the 
British tourists who didn't have to worry about changing money).  The RMS charges a 
ridiculous 1% commission to anyone wishing to change between British and St. Helenan 
pounds even though both are used on the ship — but if you purchase something on board, 
you can request your change be in either currency type (while buying a £10 Cable & 
Wireless St. Helena phone card from Nigel this morning I used a £50 British note, but asked 
for change in St. Helenan pounds — more to tuck away as souvenirs than anything else, as 
British pounds are quite welcome on the island).  Cable & Wireless is the monopoly 
telephone provider on the island (as well as offering recently-introduced television and 
internet services), and their phone cards are similar to those found in South Africa (credit 
card thickness with an embedded chip).  New, good-condition working payphones can be 
found scattered throughout the island, and while local St. Helena calls are cheap, a new 
card can quickly become depleted calling overseas.  There were only 4 cards available on the 
ship (in £2, £5, £10, and £20 values), all from the same set with similar views of the island's 
interior... and though Nigel thought that since it was now New Years there might be different 
cards for sale on the island, those four cards were the only ones to be found anywhere.
	The RMS has two pantries (on A and B decks) where you can help yourself to tea or 
coffee anytime of the day or night.  In one of them was a can of hot chocolate mix — and as I 
don't drink coffee and only occasionally have tea, I'd make myself a cup when the weather 
was cold.  However it was almost empty, and telling Rachael and Beth (the two ex-pat 
teachers) about it probably wasn't the best idea, as they soon finished it!  Though I asked 
some of the staff if they had another can, they weren't able to find one until the ship set sail 
for Tristan da Cunha a few weeks later.  Interestingly, while looking around in the RMS' 
shop, Carl (the Saint 3rd purser who often works in the shop) mentioned that supplies for 
the store are only picked up when the ship calls in Cardiff — never in Cape Town, even 
though it can be months between visits back to the UK.  When stocks are depleted (such as 
with the RMS baseball cap), they're gone until the ship returns back to Britain.
	This morning there was a clay shooting competition, but at £5/US$7.50 I didn't 
bother taking part in it.  Later in the day however, I was convinced to join in our group's 
team for skittles.  For those who haven't heard of the game before (I hadn't), it's similar to 
10-pin bowling but with only 9 pins (making it easy for your ball to sail right through a row 
of pins and miss them all).  Balls of rope were used on the ship, and with 10 teams taking 
part, two lanes were set up on either side of the pool.  Pat/SA's suggestion for a team name 
was "Larry's Layabouts", and I gladly accepted the honor of having our team named after 
me.  With three chances to hit the pins for each frame, I didn't do too bad for my first time, 
but as we were playing against experienced teams, we lost to "The Saints."
	Meeting Mike (the ex-pat teacher and host of the Classical Hour on Radio St. Helena) 
in the ship's hallway that morning, he pointed out some areas of interest on the large St. 
Helena map up on the wall.  As he pointed out the radio station, I asked if it might be 
possible to visit it at some point... he responded by saying he had been standing there 
wondering if I'd want to come by and tape a show with him (as I was a professional 
musician), so it worked out nicely, with me joining him for that week's show a few days 
	After lunch I decided to go for a swim in the pool, and though a bit cool outside, it 
was still enjoyable.  The pool is about 6 feet deep, but its small size (about 15 feet long) 
means you can swim from one end to the other in just a few seconds.  Still, the water helped 
my knee feel better, and I didn't have to worry about getting burned, as by the time I went in 
half the pool was already in the shade.
	The doctor for both this St. Helena sailing and the following Tristan run wasn't the 
ship's normal doctor, but the one who comes aboard when the regular doctor needs some 
time off... semi-retired, the doc has sailed on many ships throughout his career, but this 
time was travelling with his wife (though he would be on call when needed).  The cost of 
seeing the ship's doctor was £10, and those not able to handle ocean travel were paying £10 
for a seasickness injection (which people said worked better than tablets).  Peter (who 
became seasick right from the start) told me about his experience seeing the doctor: walking 
in seasick to get an injection, he asked the simple question of why some people get seasick 
and others don't — and was immediately treated to a 30-minute lecture on the subject while 
in agony, when all he wanted was the injection!  Seeing the doctor pass me by as I was in 
the pool, I mentioned to him that I had pulled something in my knee... his reaction was 
"well, it sounds like you didn't warm up enough... why didn't you come see me?" — but 
there was really nothing he could do except prescribe pain killers, something I really didn't 
want to deal with.
	When finished with the pool, I moved a chaise lounge into the shade to lie down, but 
unable to concentrate on my book, I went to talk with Pat/UK, Morris, and Pat/SA.  Instead 
of staying on St. Helena for a week as most everyone else would do, Pat/SA was more 
interested in the cruise, and would stay on the ship during its shuttle run to Ascension and 
back that week... Ascension Island is owned by the British, but contains both British and 
US air bases, as well as satellite tracking stations and companies such as Raytheon.  A 
working island, there's little desire to have tourists visit, and those allowed to stay (with a 
reason, such as waiting for a ship or plane) are charged very high rates for basic, bare-bones 
accomodation (someone mentioned £60/US$90 a night).  With the high rate of 
unemployment on St. Helena, many Saints go off to work on Ascension (some for years at at 
time), as there are plenty of work opportunities there.  Ascension is also an alternate route 
for reaching St. Helena: though I didn't know it before starting my trip, the British RAF 
(Royal Air Force) allows civilians to book passage on their flights from the UK to Ascension 
and back — and from Ascension, you can catch the RMS to St. Helena for only a 2-day 
voyage at sea rather than the 5 day voyage from Cape Town.  Some passengers on board the 
RMS this time were actually going to stay longer on St. Helena, take the RMS back to 
Ascension after its Tristan run, and finally fly back to the UK via the RAF (these RAF flights 
can be booked through the RMS).  Though I would have liked to have seen Ascension, doing 
so would have meant sacrificing most of my time on St. Helena — something I wasn't 
prepared to do.
	Later that afternoon I signed up for the ship's Scrabble tournament, playing against a 
nice Saint named Michelle.  With almost all of my tiles being useless 1-point vowels, she 
beat me — and as just one example of how small a world St. Helena is, while walking 
around Half Tree Hollow one morning a few days later, I saw Michelle pass me by in her 
car... she tooted and waved hello.
	That afternoon James mentioned he had pre-booked a different tour for each day of 
his stay on St. Helena (with Basil George's Magma Tours) — though at the morning's 
meeting only a few of these tours were mentioned as possibilities (with the rest apparently 
just for those who had pre-booked the entire week).  As some of these prebook-only tours 
looked interesting, I decided to ask on arrival if it might be possible to join some of them at 
the last minute.  Spending some time then looking through my book of walks on St. Helena, 
I wasn't sure if I'd be able to do any of them with my knee being the way it was — but I was 
determined to go easy on it for the next few days in order to give it a chance to heal.
	At dinner tonight we were able to sit together as a group at the large Table 16 for the 
first time.  The soup selection was spicy asparagus soup, and as with last night's spicy fish 
soup, I quickly ordered seconds.  Sadly, after these initial first few days, the soup selections 
(always a choice of two for dinner) became much more bland, and I wish they had stayed 
with a spicy soup for at least one of the two choices.
	Later in the evening some Saints borrowed a video ("Tumbleweeds") from the purser's 
bureau and closed off the alcove in the main lounge to watch it.  I joined them for a bit, but 
after about 20 minutes decided to go to bed.  However while walking back, I noticed Peter 
talking with Nigel, so I asked if I could join them for a bit.  Besides being the ship's assistant 
purser (who must deal with the passengers more than the head purser does), Nigel also 
practices podiatry as a hobby, and helps older Saints when they have foot problems (though 
he doesn't charge them, many will try to give him something in return, such as food — or 
even once, a live chicken).  As well, Nigel once worked with the BBC on Ascension, but he is 
now a fixture on board the RMS, and only occasionally takes time off to stay at his house in 
the Longwood area (what he calls the "Beverly Hills of St. Helena").  From Nigel, I heard 
many interesting bits of information about his island...
	While there is a judicial system for smaller crimes on St. Helena, there's also a 
travelling judge from the UK who visits the island from time to time.  If the alleged crime is 
serious enough, the accused is held in jail — but if not he's free until the judge comes, 
though there's rarely any serious crime on the island (in the 1980s there were two murders 
— one when a man stabbed his wife, and another when a policeman was shot — but these 
are extremely rare, and both perpetrators are in prison in the UK).  Prisoners are often 
allowed to leave jail and mingle with the community, but as Nigel put it, the real 
punishment for the prisoner and his family is the stigma of having been convicted, as St. 
Helena is a very close-knit island, and everyone knows everything about each other.  Nigel 
mentioned that an ex-prisoner once told him "I've served my time, but this (all of St. Helena) 
is still my prison."  Someone with a criminal record is usually not allowed to go overseas 
(meaning no employment on Ascension), though one's record is expunged after seven years 
of good behavior.  With a large alcoholism problem on the island, most crime tends to be 
petty (for instance, beer might be stolen, but the money in the till won't be touched).  Castle 
Beer is one of the island's biggest imports, and marijuana is sometimes grown on the island 
	Though many people think that the Governor of St. Helena should be a Saint (not a 
Brit appointed from the UK), Nigel agreed with the idea of appointing someone from the 
outside, feeling that with the way everyone on the island knows each other, it would be too 
hard for a local to be unbiased while making hard decisions... the new chief of police will be 
a Saint... because there is no place for specialized training on the island, most Saints must 
go overseas (to the UK) to learn their trade, and though they receive no price break on 
transportation aboard the RMS, their expenses are usually subsidized by the government or 
the company sending them off for training.
	One bone of contention with many islanders is the inequality of pay between ex-pats 
brought in and similarly-qualified locals doing the same job.  For instance, an ex-pat teacher 
sent to St. Helena (usually on a 2-year contract) will earn a much higher salary than a local 
Saint, even if the Saint has gone overseas for training to become similarly-qualified.  This 
gives people little incentive to go overseas to train — or if they do, little incentive to return to 
St. Helena to work for a fraction of what they could receive elsewhere.  Not only is the salary 
much higher for ex-pats, but it's also tax-free for them, and includes free housing, water, 
and electricity (not cheap on the island). This salary difference isn't inconsequential: the 
current Saint Education Officer earns £6,000/yr, but the old ex-pat Education Officer 
earned £40,000/yr for the same job.  Nigel didn't seem to mind a small difference in pay in 
order to entice someone to come to St. Helena, but most people feel the gap is ridiculously 
wide.  Though the ex-pat teachers say their salary is less than comparable jobs in the UK, 
the cost of living on St. Helena is relatively low (especially with free housing provided).  
Certain expenses you'd have at home don't exist on the island, and even with shipping 
costs, food is no more expensive on St. Helena than in the UK due to much of it coming from 
South Africa, where a very weak rand is up against a strong pound (likewise, though 
overseas rates are high, the cost for just having a phone here is extremely low — Paul, the 
Australian who works at Cable & Wireless earlier said that to get a dial tone on the island 
costs only about £3/US$4.50 a month).
	Another employment inequity on the island has to do with retirement: in the UK, a 
government worker is part of a pension scheme which will transfer with you if you move to a 
different job (or if you decide to quit, you can opt to receive part of it) — but this isn't the 
case on St. Helena, where if you quit your low-paying government job anytime before 
retirement, you lose every cent of you pension, making people virtual prisoners of their low-
paying jobs.  Decent employment on the island is so rare that while visiting the US on 
tourist visa, Nigel's brother (with the aid of a lawyer) actually managed to convince the US 
Immigration Service that St. Helena is a third-world country with no opportunities, and was 
given a 10-year work permit.  Working now as a welder in Flordia, he is currently attending 
art college as well — something he would be unable to do on St. Helena.
	The three of us stayed up talking until 1:30am, and after jotting a few notes down in 
my journal, it was close to 2:00am by the time I returned to the cabin to fall asleep.

Jan. 3: RMS
	Up at 6:50am this morning to Colin coming in with the juice, my knee felt a little 
better, though it was still somewhat sore, and I'd need to continue staying off it as much as 
possible.  After a shower I walked outside onto the sun deck, where much to my surprise I 
heard the sound of a cricket coming from somewhere (a stowaway!)  Looking at the water 
below, I was amazed at its color: as someone used to the green waters of a coastline, seeing 
the deep royal blue water of the open sea was really something else.
	After breakfast I lied down to read more of "Red October", though in a sad departure 
from the norm, the book unfortunately didn't seem to measure up to its movie counterpart.  
At 11:00am shuffleboard was organized on the deck, and with nothing much else to do, I 
decided to give it a shot.  Though I didn't win, I actually did quite well for my first time (the 
winner was the "proper" British gentleman I sat with a few nights ago on the 8:00pm dinner 
	This morning I went down to buy a satellite telephone card (£8/US$12) from Nigel at 
the purser's bureau (though both he and Carl staff the bureau, Nigel usually handles it 
when Carl is looking after the store).  The cards are available in £8/US$12 or £16/US$24 
demoninations, though at the rate of £3.20/US$4.80 a minute for all calls, my £8/US$12 
card would be used up in 2.5 minutes.  Though I bought the satellite card more as a 
souvenir than anything else (as I love collecting telephone cards), I did manage to use the 
"entire" 2.5 minutes between both the St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha sailings.  Because of 
the high rates, credit is deducted in increments of a few seconds rather than minutes: an £8 
card has 25 credits, and as you talk, that number quickly becomes smaller.  A few notes on 
the satellite phone: calls to most American toll-free (800/888/877/866) numbers are 
allowed, though at full satellite rates... the system cannot detect when a call is answered on 
the other end, so the mouthpiece won't activate and credits won't start being deducted from 
your card until you press the "#" button (if "#" isn't pressed within about 30 seconds, the 
call will just disconnect).  Normally this would be a great way to check messages on an 
answering machine at home for free (as you don't need to "talk" to your machine), except the 
keypad doesn't produce the needed touch-tones.  Whenever I became really bored on the 
ship, I'd walk into the phone booth to call a few pre-recorded 800 numbers in the States (a 
kid's story line, daily currency exchange rate, etc.) without pressing "#", and would be 
entertained for 30 seconds until the free call disconnected.
	As well as the satellite telephone card from the purser's bureau, I also bought a few 
things at the store: for £2/US$3 I picked up the "St. Helena's Rights Under International 
Law" pamphlet, some St. Helena postcards and stamps (postcards are 25p/38c to mail 
anywhere in the world, with letters 30p/45c), and a copy of the book "Music on St. Helena" 
by Eric M. George, the island's main musician and a really nice fellow (£2.99, with net 
proceeds going to the St. Helena Handicapped Persons Aid Society).  Eric has written two 
books on music and St. Helena: the first ("Music on St. Helena") delves into the history of 
music on the island, touching on subjects from the various musical styles to the island's 
organized groups, as well as compositions by locals and musical examinations.  The second 
book (currently sold out, though Eric is planning a re-print — he generously sent me an 
extra copy after I returned home) is called "St. Helena Songs 1941-1994", and is a book 
containing the actual tunes written on the island by local Saints throughout the years (with 
melody, lyrics, and chord notations above the staff).  Many were written by children for 
various island competitions, and for the ones where no written record or old audio tape 
existed, Eric transcribed the songs from people who could still remember and sing them.  
Those interested in musicology will find both Eric and his two books fascinating... he can be 
contacted by writing to: Eric M. George, New Ground Camp, St. Helena Island.
	For lunch I ate with Pat/#3 and his relatives (the South African shoeman born on St. 
Helena)... there were six of them travelling together, and they were all extremely nice.  One 
of today's choices for lunch was stuffed St. Helena tuna steak, and it was hands down the 
best tuna I've ever had, as well as one of the best lunches served on the ship.  When 
ordering, I asked for a smaller portion (as I wasn't getting any exercise), but as usual, the 
sizes are set before cooking, and my portion was the same as everyone else's.  Still, with 
today being one of the ship's best lunches, I was glad the portion hadn't been sized down.
	Every day while out at sea a noontime announcement is given (usually at 12:30pm), 
in which the officer on duty (usually Andrew) announces what the ship's current position, 
speed, and distance from land was at 12 noon, as well as any other relavant information — 
and as of noon today, we were half-way to St. Helena.
	Relaxing outside, I joined Peter and Nigel again (sitting on the small balcony 
overlooking the sun deck) for a chat.  In his job as assistant purser, Nigel works three 
months at a time for a total of six months a year (3 months work, 3 months off) — and 
though he only works a total of 6 months for a year's salary, it's a tiring and demanding job, 
with practically no days off during the 3 months he's working, and no days off while at sea.  
Though officers' quarters are nicer, the crew accomodations aren't bad either, with a TV, 
small refrigerator, and other amenities in the cabin — though the crew must sleep two per 
room (bunk bed style), and are at sea with no privacy for three months at a time.  Though 
not many people were outside today (too hot perhaps?) a nice French couple I had met 
earlier joined us to talk about Napoleon and his history on St. Helena (Napoleon was exiled 
to, and died on the island).  The husband had worked in Texas at one point for Philips 
Petrolium (chemecal division), so both spoke English well, and like most people on the St. 
Helena sailing, were exceptionally nice (looking off the side of the ship, I spotted some flying 
	Later in the afternoon, I thought I should take out the Chinese-made student violin I 
had brought with me and practice a bit just to keep my fingers active.  Noticing the "Do Not 
Disturb" sign on Beth and Rachael's cabin door across the way, I decided to go outside so as 
not to disturb them.  Though the sun deck was pretty deserted by now (unusual... perhaps 
people were indoors watching the movie), I decided to grab a chair and head up to the funnel 
deck to literally play right under the large yellow funnel of the ship.  Not really practicing 
but just trying to keep my fingers from getting too much out of shape, I played for about 20 
minutes before a Dutch couple came up and asked if I'd mind them playing deck quoits on 
one side (as the funnel deck is the area where deck quoits are played).  I didn't mind, though 
I put the violin away a few minutes later.  With the low noise of the engine and my distance 
away from people, I wasn't sure if anyone had heard me or not, but when I later asked, no 
one (other than the couple playing deck quoits) even knew I had taken out the violin.
	After putting the violin back in the cabin, I returned to the shop to buy some more 
postcards, deciding to write them out now so they'd be posted on the 7th from Ascension 
rather than being delayed until we were back in Cape Town on the 17th.
	Dinner tonight was with the usual crowd, and another good serving of fish: fresh 
trout.  During the 8:00pm dinner sitting, a video was once again shown for the 6:45pm 
diners, but I opted to go out onto the sun deck — and wound up spending about 40 minutes 
walking up and down the sides of the ship to get some exercise and gently help my knee get 
back into shape.  Though just about everyone was inside watching the video, Alan (a nice 
relative of Pat the shoe man) came out for a smoke and chuckled at what I was doing.  
During my walk up and down the sides of the ship, I decided to open a door at the end 
leading to the crew quaters, and there in the hallway was a green South African card phone.  
Deciding to try it on a lark, I inserted my South African card and dialed a random number 
in South Africa.  It soon began to ring, but no one picked up.  Curious why I would even 
receive a ring (as it's not a satellite phone and we were out at sea), I tried dialing a number 
in the US (where it would have a different ring), but received the same type of ring as when 
dialing the first number (obviously it wasn't placing any real calls, but where was it ringing 
	At 9:30pm it was time for another trivia quiz in the main lounge, and as with before, 
it was harmless fun which helped pass the time in the evening.  At 11:00pm I talked a bit 
with Beth and Rachael about various things (the US, the UK, St. Helena), and I heard that a 
young Saint kid on the ship had chicken pox (uh-oh... I never had it as a kid!) — though it 
later turned out to be something else.  After writing a bit in my journal, I went outside at 
midnight to try to find the southern cross, but saw only clouds above.  Turning on my little 
radio, the ship was now too far from land to receive any FM stations, but SW reception was 
loud and clear.
	Going back to my cabin to turn in for the night, I noticed a strange sight: my 
bunkmate Howard wasn't in the cabin (every night, he'd always be sleeping by the time I 
walked in) — so instead of going to sleep, I decided to walk back out and see if I could find 
him.  Instead, I found myself in the main lounge where some Saints were just closing the 
alcove curtain in order to start a video (as most people had gone to bed already).  The movie 
was "The Bachelor", and though I tried to watch it for a bit, I left after about 20 minutes.  
Walking upstairs, I found Howard sitting in the sun lounge, talking to Peter (saying "you 
always come in after me... I thought I'd stay up for a change too!")  The three of us talked for 
a while and didn't turn in until 1:30am (one of the things I enjoyed about the RMS were 
some of these late night conversations, especially as the ship can be nice and quiet once 
most people retire for the evening).

Jan. 4: RMS [Engine Room Tour / Curnow Problems / Braai]
	Up at 6:50am again, it was cloudy this morning.  Going upstairs to read move of "Red 
October", I relaxed for a bit before breakfast.  Afterwards, I returned to the cabin to separate 
my luggage into those items I'd need with me on St. Helena and those I could leave in 
storage on board the ship.  With only the one backpack though, I asked Nigel if he had an 
extra bag I could use to store some of my things in... he said he'd have to take a look.
	At 9:30am I went on a tour of the engine room conducted by one of the British crew, 
who took a small group of us down for a look at the two trouble-makers — as well as the 
broken turbo-charger, now lying motionless on the floor waiting to be repaired (it couldn't be 
fixed on board the ship, so the spare was installed instead... if the spare was to break, we'd 
be out of luck — yet when I asked if a new spare would be waiting for the ship in Cape Town 
on the 17th, I was told that they wouldn't be picking up a spare until the ship finally 
returned to the UK in March).
	Walking into an area near the control room, I noticed a crew member busy trying to 
fix another problem at a worktable: a broken cylinder head (hmm...)  The control room has a 
similar look to it as the bridge, with computer monitors, levers, and lots of dials and 
displays.  One of the two monitors was displaying a list of engine "alarms" that had gone off 
recently, though we were told they were all minor.  Our guide pointed at a gauge indicating a 
current propeller speed of 600rpm, saying we were going about as fast as we could go.  
Though the engine room is manned 24hrs a day, there's usually only one person on duty, so 
the control panel has a red button which must be pushed every 20 minutes to tell the ship 
that the operator is alive and well, or an alarm will go off.
	Due to the extremely loud noise in the engine room itself, we were given most of our 
information out in the control area, as we were forced to wear earplugs in the engine room 
(given out at the start of the tour, and quite useful against later bunkmates who snored).  
The doors into and out of the main engine room are electronic, but in the event of a power 
loss, there's a manual hydrolic pump.  With the ship's two engines, 25 tons of fuel is used 
each day.
	When the tour was over shortly after 10:00am, I bought two more postcards from the 
store, wrote them, and dropped them in the mailbox before playing another game of skittles 
at 11:00am.  With 29 points (from two sets), "Larry's Layabouts" lost to "The Saints" (35 
points) again, but everyone had a great time.  After skittles, I took out Eric George's "Music 
on St. Helena" book until the lunch music came on over the PA.
	Going down to the galley for lunch, I wound up ordering only the soup and dessert, 
returning to the sun deck for a light buffet lunch of Thai chicken, cheese, and fruit salad — 
as with tonight being the last night before arriving at St. Helena, an outdoor braai (BBQ) 
was planned.
	Something I should mention at this point is that while I felt the staff and crew of the 
RMS were excellent at their jobs, I had numerous problems dealing with the Curnow offices 
(operators of the RMS) in England.  With branches in Cape Town and St. Helena, I made the 
mistake of thinking it would be better to deal with the head office in the UK rather than the 
smaller offices... Wrong.  Trying to get information from the UK office was like trying to 
extract gold from a turnip, and they gave me nothing but headaches...
	For those living in the UK, there's usually an "open ship" day while the RMS is 
docked at Cardiff: you're allowed to drop by and have a look at the inside of the RMS while 
it's in port (many Brits take advantage of being able to look inside the various cabins and 
decide which one to reserve), but if you don't live in Britain, it was almost as if Curnow's UK 
office went out of their way to make things difficult for you.  Fortunately Curnow is no 
longer the operator of the RMS (having lost the contract to a competitor [Andrew Weir 
Shipping Ltd.] in Spring 2001) — but for anyone wondering why Curnow might have lost the 
contract, just keep reading, as here are just a few examples of what it was like dealing with 
their head office: when the RMS broke down in November 1999 just a few weeks before I was 
to sail on it, no one from Curnow contacted me to let me know the ship wouldn't be sailing.  
I realize things must have been chaotic then, but one would think that contacting the 
booked passengers would be a top priority.  For me at least it wasn't, and if I hadn't found 
out about the breakdown via the internet and telephoned to see what was happening, I very 
well could have shown up at Duncan Docks one day in December only to find no ship 
waiting for me.  When finally reaching Curnow about the breakdown, I was assured I'd be 
contacted about an updated schedule... but it never happened.  Though I gave them two 
telephone numbers and an email address, I heard nothing from them — and once again I 
had to call THEM to find out what was going on.
	For almost four years — from the time I first sent in my reservation to the time I 
boarded the ship in Cape Town, Curnow's promises to get back to me with information were 
never kept.  I would send an email asking a question, and when no reply was received, 
would call them up a few weeks later to hear "yes, we received your email," as they'd then 
answer my question — but they could never be bothered with me unless I called THEM.  
Even as the time for the 2000/2001 sailing approached, nothing had changed: in October, I 
called to request that the tickets be mailed out (as I was told they could be mailed out at any 
time)... the lady said she'd do it right away, but after a month and no tickets, I finally had to 
call them up again (as emails would never be answered) to ask "do I need tickets to board 
the RMS?" — and when the answer was "yes", had to remind them that they still hadn't sent 
out my tickets.
	The Curnow UK office didn't just have a problem with terrible customer service, they 
were inept as well: in 1999 I was able to reserve cabin C49 (the budget 2-person cabin with 
a porthole) for only 2 of the 4 segments, but in 2000 it was available for 3 of the 4 segments 
— and the people already holding the cabin for the one remaining segment only had a 
tentative reservation.  Requesting the cabin for the 3 available segments, I asked to be 
placed on the waiting list for the remaining St. Helena -> Cape Town segement should it 
become available (in order to have the same cabin for the entire trip).  In February 2000 I 
received a letter indicating that the cabin had indeed become available, yet instead of just 
making the change automatically as I had requested, the letter asked if I wanted the cabin 
or not.  Returning from my African trip two weeks later, I emailed Curnow a "yes", but (of 
course) received no response from them.  After some time, I phoned them up only to hear 
that as they "hadn't heard back from me", they gave it to someone else who had since 
requested it (a Saint), even though I had requested long ago to automatically be given the 
cabin should it become avaiable, and emailed a confirmation as soon as I returned home.  
Since the Saint was a woman, I couldn't share the cabin with her — so in the end I was 
stuck having to move to a different cabin for 1 of my 4 segments on board the RMS.  There 
were other problems as well (discussed later), such as Curnow trying to charge me 
£50/US$75 to stay on board the ship for the night between my two sailings when no one 
else was asked to pay — but it now seems that Curnow's unprofessionalism has caught up 
with them, as their contract to run and manage the RMS has thankfully been taken away.  
One thing that needs to be pointed out is that I'm an experienced independent traveller who 
is used to having to find out information on my own the hard way (drop me in the middle of 
Africa and I'll be fine) — but most of the RMS' travellers are not in this catagory, and I kept 
thinking that if it was my father taking this trip and not someone used to dealing with travel 
headaches like myself, he would have had a miserable time thanks to Curnow's UK office.
	Why do I bring all this up now?  Because most everyone else on board the RMS was 
sent nice, small tourist maps of St. Helena and Jamestown with their tickets — but not me 
of course.  So borrowing the map from the German couple, I went to use the ship's copy 
machine (in a small room next to the phone/email booth) when no one was looking.  Though 
I'm not exactly sure what the ship's policy is on passengers using the machine, with all the 
headaches Curnow had put me through, I was going to copy the maps they were supposed 
to send me whether they liked it or not (especially as with our delayed arrival time of late 
Friday afternoon thanks to the RMS' engines, the tourist office would most likely be closed 
for the first two days).
	Going back outside, I dragged a chaise lounge to the side of the ship with shade and 
sat down to read more of the pamphlet on St. Helena rights as well as more of "Red October" 
— though with it being quite warm today, I decided to go in the pool for about 45 minutes.  
Already in the pool were 3 younger Saint kids, and I was amazed at how friendly and polite 
they were — not just to me, but to each other as well.
	After the pool I sat outside at a table under an umbrella talking to James for a bit.  
He's an interesting fellow who certainly proves you're much better off being young at heart: 
at 83, he was incredibly active, sharp, and thoughtful — and it was interesting to note the 
difference between him and another elderly passenger only 3 years older, who hobbled along 
	A bit later Nigel gave me something to store my things in while on St. Helena: an 
older, used "RMS St. Helena" duffel bag.  Taking it to the cabin, I proceeded to fill it with the 
items I wouldn't need while on the island, and would eventually keep it as payment for all 
the headaches in dealing with Curnow over the past four years.  As well, I picked up some 
tipping envelopes from Nigel, and asked about tipping proceedure... because some of the 
staff invariably leaves the ship for their vacations in St. Helena or Cape Town, many 
passengers tip at the end of each segment rather than at the end of the entire trip, and Nigel 
mentioned that the only people who should be tipped (should you feel so inclined) are your 
cabin steward, your dinner server, and the man who delivers drinks from the bar (as for the 
other crew members, those with jobs where tips aren't given have higher salaries).  I'd 
definitely tip our cabin attendant, and never ordered any drinks from the bar — but I was 
unsure about what to do with the meal servers.  We were only supposed to tip our assigned 
dinner table server, but what about those who served us the other meals?  I'd usually be at 
a different table for breakfast and lunch than for dinner, and had a wonderful waitress 
during the day.  On the other hand, our dinner table's waitress wasn't one of the better ones 
and often ignored us... so what to do?  In the end, I couldn't bring myself to tip the waitress 
this time (the only time I didn't tip on any of the four segments), but left Colin £5/US$7.50, 
well within the suggested "50p-£1/day" range.
	As I was the only American on board (other than the German-born doctor now living 
in Conneticut who seemed more European than American), I stood out a bit from the other 
passengers, and after a while most of the staff knew me by my first name.  My American 
upbringing wouldn't allow me to partake in some of the pomp-and-circumstance formality 
which occasionally showed itself (ie, I refused to wear a suit and tie on a ship you must take 
if you want to reach St. Helena), and I'm sure other things about me amused the staff as 
well.  One thing which confused me (until I finally just gave up on the whole thing) was the 
table layout with all the multiple forks, spoons, and knives.  I had no idea which spoon to 
use for what — to me, a spoon is a spoon (one of the nicer waitresses chuckled when I 
thought the fish knife was the butter knife, for I'd use it constantly to butter my rolls until 
she volunteered that it was really the fish knife).  Another reason the staff would know me 
though, was that I'd try to talk to them as people, not just as employees.  I can well imagine 
how the routine of their job must get to them at times, and a little kindness goes a long way 
(not to mention that many are very interesting people to talk with).
	In the afternoon I laid out in the shade to do some more reading.  Not remembering 
afternoon tea until 4:30pm, all the biscuits (cookies) were gone, though I did grab a small 
half-sandwich.  Two videos on St. Helena were then shown in the lounge: one from the 
1960s, and a more recent one from the 1990s.  When the videos were finished, I walked 
back outside to see the sun deck decorated for the evening's braai, complete with flags and 
checkered tablecloths.
	Standing by the pool, a Saint by the name of Bill came up to me to say hello, and we 
began to talk.  Bill lives in Longwood, and is in the home construction business... blasting 
stones from the quarry he owns, he then puts them in a crusher and uses them to build 
homes.  Mentioning that there are about 20-40 new homes built on the island each year, he 
told me a lot of Saints go off to the UK or Ascension to work... they'll earn money, come back 
years later, get some land, and want to build a house (though there are also plenty of people 
who want to just re-do or fix up their existing homes).  Turning to politics, Bill wasn't shy 
about his opinions, saying he no longer votes... he feels once Councilors are elected, they 
just take their pay and refuse to bring up the important issues facing the island, knowing 
where their salaries come from.  The British-appointed governors usually stay for a term of 
only 2-3 years, and are forced to leave just as they start to understand the island (at this 
Bill's wife nodded in agreement, adding that while there indeed have been some decent 
governors in the past, they always have to be replaced by a new one every few years). When I 
asked Bill why he doesn't run for the Council himself, he said, "well, then I'd be clashing 
with those that just take the money and shut up... and it's a small island..."
	Talk then turned to the disparity of salaries between locals and ex-pats, with Bill 
mentioning that Saint teachers who go overseas for years to train return to the island to the 
same low pay, while similarly-qualified ex-pat teachers are paid substantially higher.  
Because of this, many Saints leave the island to work on Ascension or in the UK, where 
their pay will be in line with their qualifications.  He said the (UK-controlled) Government 
refuses to pay a similarly-qualified local anywhere near the scale or benefits given to visiting 
ex-pats, mentioning that the problem isn't just with teachers, but other professions as well, 
such as nurses (to be fair, there certainly are many jobs without qualified Saints where 
outside personnel must be brought to the island — but in areas where there ARE qualified 
locals, the pay is no where near equal).  Bill then mentioned the high unemployment rate on 
the island, commenting that there were many things that could be done to both give people 
jobs and make the island a better place: widen the roads, fix the crumbling batteries on the 
cliff — but it never happens.
	Along with his wife and son, Bill was returning from a 3-month holiday in the UK... 
and when I asked what they missed most living on St. Helena (jokingly suggesting Chinese 
food), his wife replied that it wasn't so much the food but the hardware — everything from 
auto parts to needed home supplies (as such necessary items often aren't available on the 
island, people must learn to improvise: "In the UK, if you need a part, you just buy it.  On 
St. Helena, you have to be inventive and make do with what you have... figure something 
out..." she said).  Mentioning that they had stayed on a dairy farm in the UK, Bill couldn't 
believe the farm's practice of killing a newborn calf whenever one was born.  Asking the 
farmer why he didn't raise them to slaughter for meat later on, the farmer's reply was that it 
would cost too much money.  Upon hearing that about 50 newborn bulls are killed at the 
farm each year for this reason (with the meat going to hunting dogs), he couldn't believe the 
waste of good cows, especially with all the mad cow disease problems going on right now: 
"On St. Helena, they'd raise the bulls to slaughter them later for plenty of disease-free meat!" 
Bill said proudly.  When the subject of the pre-arranged, forced dinner sittings came up, Bill 
laughed, saying "Well, they're British... I mean, look at this braai even... a BBQ is a rough 
and informal meal... you slap the meat on, put your fork in your pocket, grab some food, 
and eat — standing or sitting wherever you want, not any of this 'sit down with tablecloths' 
stuff..."  He went on to say that he preferred South Africa over the UK: the UK was too cold 
and the ground too damp (with cows' hooves going too deep into the ground), and felt that 
South Africa had a better mix of tall buildings and small homes, large cities and small 
	Bill (like most Saints) has a strong accent (pronouncing "island" almost like "oilan"), 
but though the accent takes a bit of getting used to, it's really not as difficult as many 
people say.  Many Saints will drop their accent when speaking to non-Saints (or consciously 
try to speak clearer), but if you just pay attention and listen carefully, it's easy to make out 
what's being said.  Sometimes if you hear two Saints speaking amongst themselves 
peripherally it may sound like gibberish — but if you actually try to listen to them, you'll 
find you can understand what's being said.
	Bill introduced me to his teenage son, telling me he wants to become a bomb-
defusing diver in the Royal Navy.  When I asked Bill what he thought of his son wanting 
such a dangerous occupation, he replied that at first he wasn't sure, but since we're all 
going to die in some way, why not do what you like doing?  As talk moved back to St. 
Helena, Bill mentioned that kids like to slide down the 699-step Jacob's Ladder staircase in 
Jamestown (I noticed a picture of kids doing this in the 2001 St. Helena calendar for sale in 
the ship's store), though he says he never did it himself.  He did say that when locals climb 
Jacob's Ladder, they swing their legs to make it easier on the muscles (as you lift your foot, 
swing that leg quickly behind your other leg before setting it down on the next step).  Talking 
about driving on the island (as I had planned to rent a car), Bill chuckled, saying "don't 
worry, you can't get lost on St. Helena — it's the size of this pool" — pointing at the ship's 
tiny swimming pool.
	Finally it was 8:00pm and time for dinner: a buffet-style American BBQ with beef, 
spare ribs, fruit, garlic bread, cake, and much more.  Having the meal outside in the warm 
evening air was a perfect idea, but this was the only time it happened during my four 
segments on the RMS.  After dinner was the awards presentation for the winners of some of 
the competitions (shuffleboard, the daily crosswords, etc.), followed by dancing out on the 
deck.  Though I went onto the dance floor a few times, doing so was a bit of a strain on my 
knee (which was beginning to feel much better), so I soon stopped and just relaxed in the 
chairs, talking to people, and leaving occasionally to do some laundry in the laundry room.  
With the clocks being set back an hour again tonight, I wound up turning in at 
	Some misc. info: being a British ship, the RMS has strict rules about dumping at sea, 
and other than approved food waste, nothing is thrown overboard.  Nigel mentioned that the 
rules are so strict that they no longer allow kids to throw bottles with messages in them 
overboard as they once did... though it's not too much of a problem, on rare occasion, there 
will be a bit of soot from the funnel out on the sun deck... in May 2001 Curnow lost its bid 
to continue running and managing the RMS for the next 5 years to Andrew Weir Shipping 
Ltd.  The changeover will take place in August 2001, and as happy as I am to hear that 
Curnow will no longer be in charge of the RMS, I sincerely hope that the ship's excellent 
staff and crew will keep their jobs — and that Tanya (the only land-based Curnow employee 
who was any good, from the Cape Town office) will find employment with the RMS' new 

Jan. 5: St. Helena [St. Helena Facts]
	Though Colin came in at 6:50am with tea and juice, I had already been up since 
5:00am, as Howard had been turning and shifting in his sleep.  Going up to the main lounge 
at 7:15am, I talked with Peter for a bit before breakfast, and afterwards went outside to 
relax and chat with some of the other passengers.  The weather today was cloudy but still 
quite warm, and would be typical of what I'd experience while on the island this week.
	Later in the morning I went to change US$100 worth of US$ travellers checks into St. 
Helenan pounds at the ship's terrible rate of £1=US$1.70.  As the ship would be off to 
Ascension while I was on St. Helena, I wanted some extra money to play it safe — but as it 
turned out, cashing travellers checks on the island was a breeze, with a much better 
exchange rate at either the Castle or Solomon's than on the ship (for the $100 I changed on 
the RMS, the difference between their exchange rate and the correct rate used on the island 
was $7.82 — almost an 8% markup).
	For lunch very tasty pilau was served (pronounced almost like "plow", it's a beef and 
potato curry with rice, and is a traditional St. Helena dish).  After lunch I went to leave my 
backpack outside the cabin door, as luggage to be taken onto the island would be collected 
at 2:00pm.  As well, I left the duffel bag with the items I wouldn't need for the next week on 
the bed for someone to pick up and store on board the RMS.
	By 1:00pm St. Helena could faintly be seen in the distance, though it was quite hazy 
and overcast that afternoon (it was also quite warm — and you could definitely feel the sun 
through the clouds).  Walking up to the bridge level on the port side for a look, I started 
talking with a younger Brit who had spent 3 months on the island back in 1999 working 
with one of the overseas agencies of the UK Government... he's now back to stay for a year, 
and will be involved in trying to think up new ideas to help the island's economy get moving 
again.  A bit later a large container vessel could be seen off in the distance on the starboard 
side... it didn't stop at St. Helena, and was probably going between Cape Town and South 
	Instead of going back down, I stayed outside by the bridge for the entire approach to 
St. Helena... as we came closer, its land appeared very barren and brown — and while this 
is the case with much of the island's perimeter, it can be extremely mis-leading, for much of 
St Helena's interior is lush, green, and wet.
	Arriving at the south end of the island, we sailed around its east side towards the 
main city and port of Jamestown... off in the distance I could see the small town nestled 
snugly in a valley, as well as the settlement of Half Tree Hollow (where I'd be staying) up on 
the cliff above.  Connecting the two is the 699-step staircase known as Jacob's Ladder, and 
from the ship, the famous staircase appeared as a diagonal line right up the side of the 
mountain.  In the harbor were some yachts, including some left over from the recent 
Governors Cup (a few of which the RMS would bring back to Cape Town), and just to the left 
of Jamestown was Rupert's Bay, where oil for the island is offloaded and the Argos fish 
factory is located.
	Anchoring off the island at 3:35pm, everyone went to the main lounge on A-deck to 
meet St. Helenan immigration, who along with Basil and Barbara George of Magma Tours, 
arrived via a small boat.  Once immigration was set up in the alcove, the process started... 
one-by-one we were asked for our passports, and for those who weren't UK or 
Commonwealth citizens, proof of medical insurance (yesterday the chief purser mentioned 
the reason for this was that a recent visitor to the island from an un-named country was 
given medical treatment — then left the island without paying the bill).  After paying the 
£11/US$16.50 landing fee and having my passport stamped with the incorrect year (5 JAN 
2000 — I didn't notice it until much later), I was given a launch ticket (Launch #2), and told 
to wait until it was ready to go.
	When finished with immigration, I talked with Basil George to ask him about the 
possibility of joining two of their tours usually reserved just for those who pre-book the 
entire week... I was able to sign up for the two at £10 each (supplying my own lunch), but in 
the end I wound up not actually going on either one, as by that time I had already seen the 
same places on the Charabanc tour, and had become too busy with various other activities 
and people I needed to meet (though everyone later raved about the tours, and how much 
information Basil provided).  Calling the night before the the tours to tell Basil I wouldn't be 
going, he offered to refund my money — but I told him to keep it, as I was cancelling at the 
last minute and possibly taking a spot away from someone else (though I did get a look at 
the kombi used for the tours, and it was completely full even without me).  Still, he insisted 
on returning the money, so I finally told him just to give it to charity — but before I left the 
island, £20 was waiting for me at Larry and Joy's (the people whom I stayed with), along 
with a note which read "with compliments, Basil George" on his business card.  Not wanting 
to take it, I offered it to Joy (as she and Larry had been extremely kind to me), but she 
refused as well — finally accepting it only as a donation for the hospital where she worked.
	A few minutes later I was on board one of the small launches for the quick trip from 
the RMS (anchored off the coast) to the Jamestown docks.  Even though the sea was calm, 
the waves near shore had been quite rough recently, so only 15 people were being allowed in 
each launch rather than the usual 25 — but soon I was getting off of the launch and 
climbing onto St. Helena for the first time.  Standing there for a moment, I thought about 
how long I had wanted to visit St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha, and here I was finally 
visiting the first of the two!  (At least I was dressed appropriately: I was wearing "Island 
Lines" shorts).
	 First a few facts and a general overview on St. Helena: the island is situated in the 
middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, 5"43' west and 15"56' south, 1,200 miles from the 
south-west coast of Africa (off Angola), and 1,800 miles from South America.  St. Helena has 
two dependent islands: Ascension (which is the closest land, at 703 miles to the north-west) 
and Tristan da Cunha, far to the south.  St. Helena is 47 square miles (10.5 miles long and 
and 6.5 miles wide), with plenty of rocky terrain.  There is little flat land on the island, and 
no white sandy beaches.  Diana's Peak (2,685ft) is usually referred to as the highest point on 
the island, though nearby Cuckold's Point is actually just a bit higher.  As the island is in 
the tropics, tradewinds keep the weather mild and comfortable all year long, though the 
weather can vary greatly in different areas of the island.  Temperatures can range from 20C-
32C (70F-90F) during the summer, and 15F-26F (60F-80F) during the winter, with 
temperatures usually being 5C-10C (10F-20F) lower in the central interior areas.
	St. Helena was discovered by Portuguese navigator Joao da Nova, who landed in what 
would become Jamestown on 21 May 1502 (and with the 500th anniversary of that date 
coming next year, there were plans for a big celebration on the island).  The first Englishman 
(Thomas Cavendish) anchored at James Bay in 1588, and in 1659, the English East India 
Company took possession of the island and started the first permanent settlement at 
Jamestown (then called Chapel Valley).  Dutch opposition to this culminated in an invasion 
in December 1673, when the English were forced to withdraw before they came back and 
bombed the Dutch into surrender.  The East India Company held the island under charter 
until 1834, when it was brought under the direct Government of the British Crown.  Over 
the years the island has had many famous visitors, including Edmond Halley (who came in 
1677 to catalogue the stars of the southern hemisphere), Captain Cook (in 1775 on the way 
home during his second circumnavigation), and Charles Darwin (in 1836).  The most famous 
visitor to the island however, was Napoleon Bonaparte, who was exiled to St. Helena in 1815 
following his defeat at Waterloo.  First living contently at Briars Pavillion, he was then moved 
to Longwood House, where he died in 1821.  He was burried at Geranium (Sane) Valley, 
chosen by Napoleon himself for the peacefulness and beauty, and although his body was 
removed and sent to Paris in 1840, the tomb remains, with it, Briars, and Longwood House 
considered to be French property.
	During the 1840s St. Helena was an important base for Royal Naval vessels fighting 
the slave trade, and those slaves who stayed on in the colony as laborers or domestic 
servants became part of the island's racial mix.  With the advent of steam and the opening of 
the Suez Canal in 1869, the island's economy took a beating from which it has never fully 
recovered — though there were short periods of prosperity (often due to St. Helena being a 
place of exile for prisoners).  In 1890, the Zulu chief Dinizulu was exiled here (where he 
remained for 7 years), and in 1900, 6,000 Boer prisoners of war were exiled to St. Helena — 
though by 1903 they had all departed and St. Helena was in poverty once more.  In 1907 the 
growing of New Zealand flax became the island's main source of income, as St. Helena 
supplied the British postal service with flax for their string and rope until synthetic fiber 
caused a collapse of the industry in the 1960s.  For many years the ships of the Union 
Castle Line would call at the island on their way to-and-from South Africa, but this stopped 
in 1977, and today the island is quiet and peaceful without much of an economy (though 
there are plans to build an airport).  As things stand now, the island exports a small amount 
of coffee (said to be gourmet and among the best in the world — but it's only done on a small 
scale) and a reasonable amount of fish (Ruperts Bay is the site of the large joint-venture 
Argos plant, where fish is frozen and stored until the next ship comes to call).  There is 
plenty of tuna and wahoo off St. Helena, and you can buy tins of St. Helena tuna in the 
island gift shops as well as on the RMS.  There is also a St. Helena Development Agency (set 
up in 1995), charged with finding ways to make the island become more self-supporting... 
hopefully they will find some good ideas in the coming years.  Though St. Helena is rural, 
there's not much land suitable for farming, so while certain vegetables, potatoes, maize, and 
cattle are cultivated here, just about everything else has to be imported.
	There are no commercial banks on the island (only the governent bank at the Castle 
for locals) — though you can cash travellers checks either there or at Solomon's Shipping 
Office.  Credit cards are quite new on St. Helena, and can be used for purchasing goods at 
certain businesses — but be aware that most will add a surcharge for their use, and the 
percentage varies with each business.  Though there are small sub-post offices located in 
general stores throughout the island, the main St. Helena post office is in the heart of 
Jamestown, and is divided into two sections: the left is the "normal" side for postal 
transactions, and the right is the philatelic area, where you can buy stamps and other 
souvenirs of the island (credit cards are accepted on the philatelic side only).
	There is a taxi rank across from the Market Building in Jamestown, but it's easy to 
just get a lift from someone if they're headed the same way, as Saints are extremely friendly 
(the taxis have no meter and you'll need to agree on a fare in advance, though as I rented a 
car for most of my stay, I never wound up needing one).  Because of the narrow winding 
roads, speed limits on the island are quite slow: 30mph if there is no posted sign, but many 
areas have a 20mph speed limit (I have a humorous picture of two signs posted next to each 
other at the top of one of the island's steep hills: the first reads "20", and the second 
indicates "no bicycles").
	Opening hours for businesses are usually 9:00am-5:00pm Monday-Friday, except for 
Wednesday, when everything on the island closes at 1:00pm. Saturdays have staggered 
hours, with shops open from 9:00am-1:00pm, then again from 6:30pm-8:30pm — and 
everything is closed on Sundays.  Though most shops stay open until 5:00pm, some do 
close early, and the island's "rush hour" from 4:15pm-5:15pm has many more cars going up 
Ladder Hill Road from Jamestown than at any other time of the day.  With the addition of 
their own St. Helena Day in May, the island's holidays follow those celebrated in the UK.
	St. Helena's public library (located in the Castle) is the oldest one in the southern 
hemisphere, and visitors may borrow books with a refundable £10 deposit.  Next to the 
library is the island's Archives, definitely worth a look (they have original books dating from 
the 1600s that you can flip through yourself).
	For media outlets, the island has its one daily newspaper published every Friday: The 
St. Helena News (15p/22c) with a circulation of 1,300 (including 200 sent to overseas 
subscribers) — though as of June 2001, the paper officially changed its name to the St. 
Helena Herald.  They also have a web site (http://www.news.co.sh) where each week's 
edition is placed on-line (in PDF format) to help keep overseas Saints up-to-date on news 
from home... Radio St. Helena (1548khz/194Mhz) broadcasts 75 hours a week with local 
news, interviews, music (from classical to country — though country seems to be the 
island's favorite), educational, and religious programs... Cable & Wireless brought television 
to the island a few years ago, and there are now three channels plus the newly-added 
Discovery Channel (originally there were only two), though you must pay for the service.  As 
well, the internet recently arrived on the island (first in 1998 by using Ascension's server, 
then with St. Helena getting their own server in 1999) — though the connection is painfully 
slow for anyone used to a normal one (once I made a remark that people could easily get 
new music by downloading MP3s, before realizing just how slow the connection really was... 
barely adequate for sending and receiving email, it's not the type where you'd want to do any 
serious downloading).  As most people on St. Helena don't have their own computer, there 
are places where you can go for a public internet connection, ranging from Cable & Wireless 
to Tracy's house downtown, where I wound up going (Tracy is the daughter of Colin, the 
Charabanc driver).
	There is a fairly large (for an island this size) 54-bed General Hospital at the top of 
Market Street staffed by ex-pat doctors (though with some local nurses), and next door to it 
is the dental surgery and community clinic.  Besides the main hospital, there are six smaller 
clinics in various parts of the island, though they are usually staffed only once or twice a 
	As far as island government goes, a Governor is appointed by the British Government 
every 2-3 years to manage not only St. Helena, but (with the aid of Administrators), the 
dependent islands of Tristan da Cunha and Ascension as well.  The island has a 
Constitution (the latest from 1988), and the Governor is generally required to obtain and act 
in accordance with the advice of the Executive Council, which comprises 3 ex-officio 
members and 5 unofficial members nominated by the elected members of the Legislative 
Council, as well as the chairs of the 5 Council committees, which are responsible for the 
activities of the five major spending departments of the government.  The 12 members of the 
Legislative Council (from the 8 island districts) get their jobs from a general election held at 
least every 4 years.
	Education on St. Helena is based on the British system (though there is instruction 
in subjects such as marine life and fishing), and all children must attend school between the 
ages of 5-15 in primary, secondary, and senior school (students may choose to continue 
until age 18, at which point instruction on the island ends).  While there are primary and 
middle schools throughout the island (though many have recently closed due to a drop in 
the number of kids on St. Helena), there is only one senior school: Prince Andrew, located 
outside of Jamestown.  Because there are no higher education facilities, only a few students 
continue on past age 18 (typically in the UK or South Africa), as most can't afford it, and 
there are usually only two scholarships available for overseas study in the UK.  Many of 
those not continuing on will take part in a youth training scheme however, where they will 
become apprentices in various occupations.
	Food is important on the island, and has many similarities to British fare (there are a 
lot of deep-fried eats).  Popular local dishes include curry, pilau, and the famous (fried) St. 
Helena fishcakes.  Most food items need to be imported, and as fresh milk isn't available, 
most islanders now use UHT or evaporated milk.  Three different types of bananas 
(including tiny finger-sized ones) are grown on the island, as well as mangos, guavas, and 
other tropical fruits, though non-tropical varieties such as apples and oranges must be 
brought to the island via the RMS.
	For recreation on St. Helena, there's a wonderful olympic-sized swimming pool by the 
shore, a golf course in Longwood (with lots of dry grass), fishing (for sport as well as dinner), 
and occasional organized games (there are even tennis courts at Prince Andrew School) — 
but the most common exercise for Saints is walking, not just to get to-and-from work, but 
taking "walks" (hikes) around various parts of the island.
	As a dependency of the UK, St. Helena flies the standard Union Jack — but has its 
own flag as well (blue, with a Union Jack in the upper left corner and a shield of arms in the 
center).  The St. Helena flag can be flown when authorized by the Governor, but it was 
always the British Union Jack I saw flying at Ladder Hill Fort or elsewhere on the island.
	Here are some statistics from the government-issued "St. Helena in Figures, 1999" 
	LAND USE (1998, 12,100 hectares total):    Hectares                %
         Unproductive Land                          9,042                 75
         Arale, Gardens or Past                     1,760                 15
         Forest/Wood                                  673                  6
         Flax/Cleared Flax                            412                  3
         Urban                                        213                  2

      POPULATION (1998, 4,971 total):              Number                  %
         0-14                                       1,057                 21
         15-64                                      3,342                 67
         65+                                          572                 12

     WORKFORCE (1999)
         Employed:                                  2,005 (81.9%)
         Unemployed:                                  444 (18.1%)
         Contract workers on Ascension, the Falklands, or the UK: 1,164

                                              1995        1996        1997        1998
     New house plans approved                   79          56          45          40
     New homes started                          50          49          37          26
     Fish exported (in tons)                   226         222         315         367
     Birth rate (per 1,000 births)              14          13          13          12
     Death rate (per 1,000 births)               9           9           9           8
     KWh (x1,000) of electricity used        4,907       5,051       5,120       5,288

     Total imports (94-95, in £1,000)       5,075
     Total exports (94-95, in £1,000)         145

     Number of schools (1998):                  8
     Pupils per teacher (1998):                 9

	 The island's population of about 5,000 are mainly descendants of British settlers 
and East India Company employees, slaves from the South Asian sub-continent, East 
Indies, and Madagascar, and Chinese indentured laborers — all different skin hues and 
looks are present.
	Saints are among the nicest people you could meet — extremely friendly, outgoing, 
eager to say hello and engage in conversation, and first in line to help out when needed.  
Their friendliess towards visitors is quite a bit different than their more-reserved Tristan 
neighbors, and it really makes one feel welcome.  Saints have a few characteristics different 
than what I'm used to though (perhaps because of the unique situation they face in living on 
an isolated island): in general, Saints are quieter and less confrontational than their British 
and American cousins.  It's rare to hear a loud or arguing voice in public, and if an opinion 
is expressed (even done firmly), it's usually with a soft voice rather than a loud one.  This 
really hit home on the RMS, as being an American, I'm used to speaking at a certain volume 
(as were the British passengers)... but while speaking with Saints on the RMS — whether 
one of the crew or an officer such as Jolene or Andrew, I began to notice their voices were 
only half as loud as everyone else's.  It further hit home as I was up on the bridge one day 
during the Tristan sailing, and couldn't even hear 3rd mate Jolene deliver her bridge tour 
over the noise of the British passengers, all speaking at top volume.  I soon found myself 
relaxing a bit as well, speaking with the Saints on board with a voice not shouting for 
attention, as everyone else's voice now seemed to be to me.  I think many of us tend to speak 
louder than we need to, and I often wondered how we must sound to Saints, who are happy 
to talk in softer voices and not be so pretentious.
	With regard to Saints being non-confrontational, a good example would be while 
sailing aboard the RMS with the Governor's wife... she told me over lunch one day how 
upset she had been that someone was smoking in the non-smoking area of the lounge — 
but was even more upset that none of the Saint staff would do anything about it, 
commenting that Saints would never amount to anything because they'll never stand up to 
anyone.  As bad a comment as this was (and ironic, as the one person Saints would be 
standing up to if they WERE more confrontational would be her husband the Governor), she 
wasn't 100% wrong... as in general, Saints are indeed much less confrontational than most 
people are used to — though one has to wonder if that's really a bad thing.  When I 
mentioned these comments to Jolene one night on the bridge, Jolene (in her own soft-
spoken voice) agreed that Saints didn't like confrontation, adding that perhaps it was 
because they live on an isolated island with the same people, and know they have to get 
along with each other.
	This non-confrontational attitute also manifests itself in the way people interact with 
each other on the streets of St. Helena: you almost can't walk by someone without being 
greeted, and no one seems to tire of it.  As I was raised in a place where people don't act this 
way, I at first thought people must get tired of this all the time — but to Saints it's just a 
way of life.  After a while most visitors to St. Helena begin to greet people on the street as 
well, and I hope a bit of the St. Helena outlook will stay with me back home in Los Angeles.  
This difference in attitude really became obvious as I returned to Malaysia for another visit 
on the way home: there (as in much of Asia) shoving, bumping, and cutting in line aren't 
anything unusual, and Jolene once told me that Saints who go overseas for the first time 
have to get used to the different lifestyle (though with videos on the island for the last 10 
years, the younger set has at least seen what the outside world is like, whereas 20 years ago 
a Saint arriving at Cape Town wouldn't have been half as prepared).
	Finally, as part of their general mentality, Saints are never in a rush.  After all, this is 
an island where there's no airport (at least not yet), and other than a visiting yacht, the 
outside world only arrives when a ship docks in Jamestown.  There's no frantic rush to have 
something done by a certain time, and while people are by no means lazy or slow, the job 
gets done when it gets done.  One example of this is in the opening hours of businesses: 
absolutely everything on the island seems to close down on Wednesday afternoons and 
Sundays, even though there is no legal reason for doing so.  Nobody runs on the island, they 
just walk... and as a stark contrast to life back in Southern California, no one is in a hurry 
when they drive: one morning while I was walking down the main street of Half Tree Hollow, 
Eric George's wife Ivy recognized me from her car. Stopping to chat for a bit, two other cars 
soon came up behind her — and though they both had plenty of room to pass with no 
oncoming traffic at the moment, neither car did — instead, both drivers were happy to just 
wait for a few minutes until we were finished talking before continuing on.  While driving 
around myself, it was the same: only ONCE did someone ever pass me, no matter how slow I 
went (a young kid driving around Half Tree Hollow at night), though I'd often pull over to the 
side where I could to let others pass if I was sightseeing.
	 Though you can easily walk the distance from where you first step up onto the 
island to the customs area (with its canvus tent now returned from the Governor's Cup 
function at Plantation House), there was a shuttle bus waiting to take us the short distance.  
With the old customs shed situated at the base of a cliff, a temporary customs area with 
canvus tent was set up a bit further on due to concerns about rocks falling on the shed.  
The dock area is quite small, with just a road winding around the shoreline, a couple of 
small offices, and the cargo area for the RMS.
	At the customs tent I was unsure what to do about my violin, for it was the one item 
which I'd be bringing onto the island but wouldn't be taking back (I was planning on 
donating it to a school or some of the young kids on the island, but didn't want to be taxed 
for it).  The customs form asks people to declare all "high value items" (even for temporary 
transit), but as the student violin wasn't really a high value item, I didn't declare it at all — 
and in the end, the customs lady just took the form without even looking at it or my baggage 
(which hadn't even been offloaded yet).
	Almost immediately after stepping out of the customs tent, a middle-aged man 
wearing a uniform (which turned out to be a Scoutmaster's uniform, though I couldn't tell at 
first) walked up to me and asked if I knew a "Larry Greenfield" who would be coming off of 
the ship — and if so, if I could point him out.  A bit surprised, I told the man that I was 
Larry Greenfield — after which he laughed and greeted me... the man turned out to be Larry 
George, the fellow with whom I was to stay with while on the island...
	About three years ago while making my initial RMS reservation (two full years before 
the time I had originally planned to visit St. Helena), I was sent a list of the various 
accomodation choices available on the island by Curnow.  Though St. Helena has two hotels 
(the Consulate and the Wellington — both in Jamestown), I didn't particularly want to stay 
in a hotel — so I considered some of the other options, including a low-cost self-catering flat 
which was listed in the brochure at £50/US$75 a week (most were double that).  Contacting 
the new St. Helena Tourist Office directly (first by phone, then later by email when the 
internet arrived in 1998), I made a reservation with them for the self-catering flat for my 
planned arrival week in 1999/2000.  About a year later I checked back with the Tourist 
Office just to make sure everything was still OK, but when I called, someone else picked up 
the phone... I was told there was no record of my reservation, and that someone else had 
since reserved the flat for the week which I had requested... the lady whom I spoke to a year 
earlier was now off in the UK for additional training, and had left no record of my request 
with the person taking over.  Making matters worse, this was for the Millennium New Years 
period, and by the time I found out about the problem, all the other self-catering 
establishments had already been booked.  The only option now left was one of the hotels, 
and that was something I absolutely did not want.  The lady working in the Tourist Office 
tried to contact her boss in the UK, and over the course of the next few weeks, realized the 
miscommunication and mistake made, but they couldn't just take the reservation away from 
the person who had it now.
	Not wanting to stay in a hotel, I asked if there was any other place I could stay at — 
and a few weeks later, heard that if I wished, there was a couple living in Half Tree Hollow 
who was thinking about opening their house to guests — if I was interested, it would be 
£10/US$15 a night.  As there had been no mention of any B&B-style accomodations 
anywhere near Jamestown in Curnow's pamphlet at the time, it was something I hadn't even 
considered, but thinking it over, I realized this would be better than a self-catering flat, and 
quickly agreed to it.  Soon afterwards I wrote to Larry and Joy to introduce myself, and 
received a nice card back saying they were looking forward to having me.  Unfortunately the 
RMS had other plans in November 1999, and when the ship broke down off the coast of 
France, it completely wiped out everyone's chance to visit the island during the period.  
Deciding to try again in 2000/2001, I could have then requested the self-catering flat once 
more, but having already corresponded with the Georges — and actually preferring to be 
with people rather than by myself in a flat, I wrote and asked if it would still be alright to 
stay with them.  A few weeks later I received another card telling me it wouldn't be a 
problem, and they would plan on seeing me in January.  The only concern I had in the back 
of my mind was the location I'd be staying at: the Georges live in Half Tree Hollow, a 
settlement situated at the top of a cliff overlooking Jamestown... it's close to town as the bird 
flies, but for those of us without wings, you must either take a steep winding road, or a 699-
step staircase.  Though I had always planned to rent a car while on the island, I began to 
have second thoughts, as all the cars on St. Helena are stickshifts, and living in Southern 
California, I had virtually no experience driving a stick (literally just for 2 minutes once in 
France when I was 16, and around the block at home in a friend's car just a few days before 
leaving).  If I rented a car, I'd have to learn stickshift on the worst possible roads (steep and 
narrow) — but if not, I'd be walking up and down 699 steps a few times each day.  Still, I'd 
make due somehow, and after all, travel is supposed to be about new experiences, right?
	Meeting Larry and his wife Joy, we all introduced ourselves to each other.  In his mid 
40s, Larry doesn't currently have a regular job, though he has worked on the Falklands in 
the past, and now works freelance when needed.  He has two daughters from a previous 
marriage, and is the Scoutmaster on the island (he was in the middle of a week-long Scout 
camp out in Thompson's Wood which he left in order to meet me, but would return back to 
stay there through the weekend).  Joy used to be a school teacher (it shows — her speech is 
very clear), has spent some time in the UK, and now works at the hospital dispensary, giving 
out prescriptions.
	  While standing there waiting for my luggage to come off the ship, I asked if I could 
see Pamela at the Tourist Office, as I wanted to pick up some maps and brochures to have 
for the weekend.  Joy said it was already closed, but pointed Pamela out (waiting with us by 
the docks), and introduced me.  Confirming that her office was now closed, Pamela did say 
that because the RMS arrived a day late, someone would be in the office tomorrow morning 
for a few hours if I wanted to stop by.
	In passing, I mentioned to Larry and Joy that if possible I'd like to meet Eric George 
at some point (the main musician on the island, and the author of two books on St. Helena 
music).  Larry pointed him out standing just a few feet away, and introduced me to him 
(Eric's daughter Sandra had been on the RMS with me returning back to St. Helena, though 
I didn't know who she was at the time).  Eric is retired now and walks with a cane, but it 
doesn't slow him down one bit: the most active musician on the island, he devotes almost all 
his time to music, doing everything from coaching the Young Musicians to laser-printing out 
plenty of tunes for the various groups on the island to play (he recently orchestrated the 
entire musical "Annie" for the available combination of instruments and players from a 
piano score for a production at Prince Andrew School).  When Eric heard I was a musician, 
he immediately asked if I wouldn't mind giving a concert — but not having prepared 
anything this year, I declined (originally when I was to visit St. Helena last year I had 
planned to give a concert — but I just hadn't had the time this year to work up a program).  
I did agree to give an informal concert for the kids in the youth orchestra though, and 
offered to coach anyone who needed a lesson — but unfortunately the kids were on break 
(with many of them being out at the Scout camp), and the first rehersal wouldn't start until 
the day after I was to leave.  Eric suggested a special meeting with the kids on Thursday, 
and though I told him not to go to any trouble, he managed to arrange a nice informal 
concert that was a lot of fun.
	When Eric heard I was going to donate a violin to the kids, he was extremely happy 
— as a coincidence, he had just placed a notice in last week's St. Helena News asking people 
for donations of instruments for the youth orchestra (including violins), so the timing was 
perfect.  When I mentioned that I had read his "Music on St. Helena" book, he asked if I had 
seen his other book as well (the collection of actual songs) — but added that it was sold out 
everywhere, though he would try to get me a copy or at least let me have a look at one.  A 
few minutes later, Eric's son Patrick came by... another musician (wind and brass player), 
he was to take the RMS the day after tomorrow to leave for work on Ascension.
	If by now you're getting confused with people's names, it's only natural, as there are 
many people with the same family name on the island (some more related than others).  For 
instance, Basil George runs Magma Tours... I would be be staying with Larry George... and 
Eric George was the leader of the Young Musicians (later, I'd meet another musician on the 
island named George Benjamin!)  Because of the similar names, many islanders are known 
by their nicknames — many of which they earn early in life, and have forever.  Unlike 
elsewhere, on St. Helena the nicknames are often substitutes for a family name rather than 
a first name (for instance, Larry George's nickname is "Bunny" — but he's not called "Bunny 
George", but rather "Larry Bunny").  Some of the nicknames are quite funny, though not 
perhaps what you'd want to be known by for the rest of your life (I was told one guy has a 
nickname having to do with his bowels: "Blocked") — but the knicknames are known 
throughout the island, and are the easiest way to identify people (if I would mention to 
someone that I was staying with "Larry George", they'd have to stop and think for a 
momemt... but if said I was staying with "Larry Bunny", everyone would immediately know 
who I was talking about).
	Looking at the canvus tent, I made a comment about it being returned from 
Plantation House, and everyone laughed... Patrick had written into the paper about it the 
incident, and Larry mentioned that even the young kids at the Scout camp this week were 
making jokes about it.
	Still waiting for the baggage to be offloaded from the ship, I walked with Larry over to 
Donny's for a drink (having my usual Bitter Lemon).  Donny's is a newer outdoor restaurant 
(and indoor disco on the weekends) by the sea (if looking at the the ocean from the entrance 
to Jamestown, customs will be to your right and Donny's will be to your left).  Opened in 
1998, the restaurant serves a limited menu (usually fried fish, chicken, or cheeseburgers), 
though the food is good, and it's one of the few places where you don't have to worry about 
pre-ordering your dinner in advance (with its large outside eating area by the water, it's also 
quite popular).  Donny's is located in the spot where the island's petrol supplies used to be 
offloaded in barrels, but with oil now being offloaded in bulk at Rupert's Bay (on the other 
side of the shore further out past the docks), Donny bought the land and opened up his 
	A bit later Joy came by to let us know the baggage has been offloaded.  Back at the 
customs tent, the lady asked if I had anything other than clothes, personal belongings, and 
my declared camera... Larry answered "violin", to which I quickly added "and a radio and 
shaver, but none are over US$100", so the customs lady waved me on.
	Though Larry and Joy don't have a car, they found a lift with someone to take us 
back up to Half Tree Hollow — and I had my first taste of St. Helena's roads going up Ladder 
Hill Road.  As very little of the island is flat, the roads on St. Helena can really be something 
else: many are extremely steep and narrow, and often have hairpin curves.  Ladder Hill Road 
(the main route out of Jamestown) was widened a few years ago to where about 2/3rds of it 
is now wide enough for two-way traffic... but for the parts that aren't (as well as on other 
narrow island roads), custom is for any car headed downhill to stop at a pullout (backing up 
if necessary) to give any uphill traffic the right-of-way.  Many roads (such as the one down to 
Sandy Bay) have extreme s-curves while going up/down at the same time, and seem to have 
only the exact minimum width required for a car's turning circle (I kept wondering how some 
of the small trucks manage on that road).  One of the busier roads on the island, Ladder Hill 
(built right into the side of the cliff) has only a few blind corners, but is steep enough where 
you can easily descend in netural without once putting your foot on the gas pedal (though 
the road allows for two-way traffic, the entrance and exit feeder roads to it down by the 
Hospital are both one way).  Driving up to Half Tree Hollow, I saw a few people walking up 
the hill (heading home from work down below in Jamestown), as the only other option other 
than getting a lift is the 699-step Jacob's Ladder staircase.
	Soon we were up in Half Tree Hollow, and my first impression was that I had landed 
on Mars, as the area is extremely barren (due to the volcanic rock, you can't have a normal, 
grassy front lawn here).  Half Tree Hollow is basically just dirt, rock, a few scrawny shrubs, 
and a lot of houses... some people don't like the area because of its looks, but Half Tree 
Hollow does have a thing or two going for it: teriffic sunsets, a wonderful view of the ocean 
from up on top of the cliff, and a full day of sun (as Jamestown is situated in a deep valley 
below, direct sunlight there is lost much earlier than up on top where Half Tree Hollow is).  
Because land is cheaper here than in Jamestown (and it's still quite close to town), the area 
has grown quite a bit — and there are now more people living in Half Tree Hollow than in 
	From the outside, many of the houses here look like large mobile homes, but they are 
indeed real houses, with corrugated metal roofs and a rain-water collection pipe leading 
down to a large tank (the collected water is for uses other than drinking).  Though I would 
wind up passing one or two fancier homes while walking around the area later, most were 
modest yet liveable: from the outside, they don't seem like much, but once you step inside, 
they're just like a home anywhere else.
	Larry and Joy live in a pleasant house in the middle of Half Tree Hollow: there's a 
nice porch for relaxing, eating, and watching the sunsets, a kitchen by the entrance (with 
wood cabinets and a small countertop TV), a decent-sized living room with a larger TV, 
Samsung stereo, Amstrad double-VHS VCR (a side-loading unit where you insert the tape 
the short way in — I haven't seen one like this since my first VCR, a JVC single-tape unit 
bought in 1988!), a bathroom with a shower (with a manual hot-water control box), and a 
few bedrooms.  I would be staying in the large back bedroom (with a window to the side and 
both a twin and a double bed), and everything was neatly made and arranged for me.
	Sitting on the outside porch, the three of us looked out at the view as Joy served 
some red South African tea and biscuits (cookies).  Talk soon turned to food, and when I 
mentioned that I had enjoyed the spicy soups served on the RMS (as I add hot sauce to soup 
at home), Larry chimed in with his own fondness for spicy soups, saying he adds chili 
peppers to his soup even if he starts to sweat.
	A bit later, Patsy (the talkative lady from whom I'd be renting a car) dropped by... I 
finally decided that I would rent a car (even with them all being stickshifts), and I was 
luckier than some in obtaining one: while still on board the RMS, I asked the British chief 
purser to reserve a car for me when he emailed the island with the initial tour list.  Saying it 
wasn't necessary, he assured me that there would be plenty of cars available for rental and I 
should just take care of it when I show up.  I wasn't so sure though, and was right to be 
concerned: when I first mentioned to Larry and Joy that I wanted to arrange a car rental, the 
first places they tried had already hired out all their vehicles... then calling someone else for 
a suggestion, they tried Patsy, who happened to have a Ford Escort left (but the next day 
while dropping in at the Tourist Office, I overheard someone else inquiring about renting a 
car — and the girl behind the desk replied that she believed all available cars on the island 
had been booked).
	The car I'd be renting was an older Ford Escort... it was impossible to tell its year, as 
on St. Helena, no one seems to care about such details (whenever there's a notice of a car 
for sale in the paper or on the radio, the year of the car is never given or considered 
important — instead, the notice will merely mention its condition).  The cars on the island 
ranged from what appeared to be 1960s models to brand new ones, but the vast majority of 
them seemed to be from the late 1970s or early 1980s.  My faded lime-green Escort looked 
as if it had been put through years of use (which I'm sure it had), but as long as it would 
run, it was fine with me.
	Patsy dropped by after the 8:00pm Radio St. Helena news, and we sat at the kitchen 
table to go over the paperwork.  It would be £10/US$15 day for the car rental (the going rate 
was £10-£12 a day), and while filling out the required insurance form (no additional charge), 
she noticed I wrote "MUSICIAN" down for occupation.  When she asked what I did as a 
musician, and I mentioned that I mostly play in an opera orchestra and on movie 
soundtrack recordings, she asked what movies I had played on.  While rattling off some 
names, I happened to mention the "South Park" movie — and immediately she groaned, 
saying "Oh no!" — and went on for quite a while about how bad South Park was.  Finally I 
said "hey, it's just a job... they give us the music and we play it... I've done many others too, 
as well as all types of orchestral and opera concerts!"  Patsy agreed not to "brand" me on the 
island with having worked on South Park, and talk soon moved on to Jerry Springer and 
why people would ever wish to be on such a show (though it's shown on the island, and 
plenty of people watch it) — but St. Helena is St. Helena, and it's impossible to keep a secret 
here.  Though only Patsy and Joy were in the kitchen with me that evening, it soon seemed 
that everyone on St. Helena knew I had worked on the South Park movie... when I met Joy 
Lawrence (at Radio St. Helena) for the first time a few days later, one of the first things out 
of her mouth was "I heard you played on the South Park movie!" — and the news even made 
it to Mike, who brought it up while I was co-hosting the Classical Hour with him.  Not being 
from small town America (which I've heard can be quite similar), all this was fascinating to 
me — but I suppose it's inevitable when you have a small, isolated population (under 5,000) 
where everyone knows each other and must live together.  The news/gossip circuit can also 
work in one's favor though: when Kevin and Cel were in the midst of speaking to local 
officials about moving to the island and setting up a farm, they were frustrated at not being 
given exact figures for the things required of them... finally, Kevin decided to mention his 
frustration while having a drink at the Consulate Hotel, and before he knew it, his 
dissatisfaction had made the rounds, as the officials soon approached him with the exact 
figures, asking if it was satisfactory.
	As I hadn't visited the police to register for driving on the island yet, Larry wound up 
driving us into town (down Ladder Hill Road) for dinner. Though I had originally planned to 
take care of everything tomorrow morning, Larry said to give it a shot tonight, so we parked 
the car by the police station (located at the Castle), and I was indeed able to register 
(basically just by showing my license from home and having them jot the information down 
— no fee required).
	From the police, we headed to Donny's for a very good cheeseburger and chips (fries), 
sitting outside and enjoying the evening.  It was a busy place, and quite a few RMS 
passengers (including my bunkmate Howard) as well as locals were having a bite to eat.
	Seeing Jacob's Ladder lit up at night, I asked about it, and was told that the lights 
were just recently put in, though they're not usually turned on unless the RMS (or another 
ship) is in port.  Walking along Main Street, I ran into Tony... he had been the head waiter 
on the RMS, but would be taking his vacation now on the island, as the other head waiter 
Tubby would take his place for the rest of my sailings.
	While eating, I heard a siren go off (3 tones)... I was told it was for the fire 
department, and that the 3 tones meant there was a fire somewhere.  Sure enough, the next 
day there was news about a fire (and this evening on the radio was a report that earlier in 
the day there had been a fire at Ladder Hill when someone left their stove on).
	At 10:00pm we drove back up Ladder Hill Road and returned to the house.  After 
talking for a while, I went into the bedroom to write in my journal for a bit, feeling better 
now that my knee seemed back to normal.  Before going to sleep, I tried to tune into Radio 
St. Helena, but the station had already shut down for the day (in the end, I wasn't able to 
listen to them as much as I would have liked, as the car had no working radio, and my 
attempt to listen on my portable unit in the car was only semi-successful).

Jan. 6: St. Helena [Charabanc Tour]
	Having gone to sleep at 11:45pm last night, I seemed to sleep for only a few hours 
before the sound of a rooster woke me up early in the morning.  This rooster was to be the 
bane of my existance on the island, as every morning without fail it would begin making 
noise between 3:20am and 4:00am, and wouldn't stop until hours later.  Through no fault of 
Larry or Joy's (it belonged to the house behind them), it meant that I hardly had any sleep 
for the week, and was aggrivating enough to where Kevin and Cel only half-jokingly 
suggested I should make an offer to buy and kill it (and if not that one, I should at least find 
another rooster to take my frustrations out on).  Nothing I did seemed to help: the ear plugs 
which worked so well on the ship were useless against a rooster, as was listening to radio 
static through ear buds.  There were plenty of other roosters wandering around the area 
that could faintly be heard, but the one loud one was right behind the house, and its 
extremely early wake-up call was piercingly clear.
	Finally getting out of bed to take a shower (I never could figure out how to get the 
right temperature from the manual water heater box — it seemed to fluctuate no matter 
where it was set), I sat with Joy over breakfast.  Though the accomodation arrangement was 
just for the room (with me supplying my own food), Joy always seemed to make meals for me 
when I was around, and sometimes even prepared packed lunches for when I'd be out.  Not 
wanting to take too much that morning, I had a slice of toast and some orange juice.  
Watching the TV in the kitchen, I learned that television was only recently introduced on the 
	Though St. Helena has had videos for many years (with most islanders owning a TV 
and VCR), actual television service on the island has only been around for about three years.  
Originally there were two stations: M-Net and Super Sport from South Africa, but a third 
(alternating between various channels ranging from Discovery to the news) was added, and 
as of May 2001, there are now three channels plus Discovery.  Before I arrived on the island, 
a survey was conducted asking islanders if they preferred CNN or the BBC for their news... 
and as a result, the news feed would soon be switching over from CNN to the BBC (later that 
morning, Colin the Charabanc driver pointed out the new satellite dish at Cable & Wireless 
which would be used to receive the BBC).  Besides providing telephone and internet for the 
island, Cable & Wireless also provides television service — but it isn't cheap for what you get 
(though the island seems to be hooked on it, especially with shows such as Jerry Springer).  
One thing missing however, was a local TV channel: though I suppose not too much 
happens on St. Helena in any given day (and what does happen can easily be covered on the 
radio), I think it would be nice to have a short daily broadcast to show everything from a 
concert in town to a sporting event to the local news, if only for 15 minutes each night.  
When I mentioned this idea to Larry later in the week, he told me the Governor had also 
commented on such an idea just a few days earlier while at the Scout camp... but everytime 
I brought up the idea, people either didn't seem interested, or didn't think it would happen 
anytime soon.
	Walking outside onto the porch, a flock of pigeons showed up... as I left and returned 
a bit later, they all flew down again, and Larry told me they come every morning, as he 
usually throws out a bit of food and they're well-trained at expecting it.
	Joy commented that now that the RMS had arrived, she'll want to go to the store and 
buy some fresh fruit in a few days (once everything has had a chance to be offloaded and 
put up onto the shelves), as with little fruit grown on the island, most of it needs to be 
imported from South Africa.  St. Helena does have a surprising choice of markets however, 
with many having small brances in various parts of the island: probably the largest is the 
Jamestown Spar (associated with the large supermarket chain found in Britain and South 
Africa — though actually managed on the island by Solomon's).  The Spar (whose name is 
still relatively new on the island) has a second location up in Half Tree Hollow as well, 
complete with a petrol station.  The part government-owned, part private Solomon's (which 
operates all types of stores and businesses on the island from its own hardware and 
souvenir shops to running the Spars and being the local shipping agent for Curnow) has its 
own supermarkets too, found throughout St. Helena (the Longwood branch of Solomon's has 
petrol).  Competing with Solomon's are some family-run stores, including C&M's (with a 
smaller branch up in Half Tree Hollow), Thorpe's, and others.  Even with the high cost of 
bringing food to the island, I was surprised to find prices similar to what they'd be at home 
— the reason for this is that a good portion of the food comes from South Africa, where the 
rand is very weak against the pound (at the time, one pound would buy about 11 rands).  
Some of the food does come from the UK, though it's still quite reasonable (my favorite little 
orange "Club" bars could be found at the Spar for 20p/30c).  Asking later in some of the 
stores how long it takes for the food to get from the ship to the shelves, most replies were 
"about a week", though the lady at the Jamestown Spar mentioned that their shipment this 
time would be relatively small, but in 6 weeks they'd receive a much larger shipment.
	After breakfast, Larry drove me down into town after dropping Joy off for work at the 
Hospital...  I asked Larry to drive down this morning because I wanted to get used to the 
roads a bit more before attempting them myself in a stickshift car — and as I'd be on an all-
day island tour, I offered Larry the use of the Ford for the day.
	One of the things to do on St. Helena is to take a tour of the island in an old open-top 
1920s Charabanc.  Though I hadn't originally planned on doing this (as I had purchased two 
Magma tours for Tuesday and Wednesday already), I was talked into it by Kevin and Cel — 
though in the end I was quite glad I went.
	Since the Charabanc wouldn't leave until 9:00am, I had a chance to run into the 
Tourist Office to grab some brochures (while inside, I overheard the staff lady tell a tourist 
inquiring about a rental car "ooh... that might be hard... I believe they're all out...")  In the 
office, I picked up the free Tourist Map of Jamestown (nicely done, with details on some of 
the various buildings and their history), and on display were three beautiful smaller-sized 
posters of St. Helena.  When I asked if they were available for purchase, the lady replied they 
were free, but she only had extras of one style left, saying that perhaps once the new fiscal 
year begins on April 1st, they might have the budget to print some more.  The one left wasn't 
the best of the three, but I still gladly accepted it, giving it later to Russell and Judith in 
Cape Town.
	Jamestown is nestled in a valley between two large cliffs, and is quite small and 
compact.  Looking at it from the water, Ruperts Bay, customs, and the large olympic-sized 
swimming pool are to your left, and Donny's is to your right.  Entering the main town (by 
going under an archway), the Castle (government offices, the bank, council chambers, 
courthouse, police station, library, and Ann's Place restaurant in the Castle Gardens) are on 
the left, with a tourist shop/mini store, St. James Church, the prison, and Jacob's Ladder to 
your right.  A bit further up are the colorful old buildings of central Main Street: Solomon's 
Shipping Office and the Consulate Hotel on the left, and the St. Helena Development 
Agency, C&M's, Solomon's Hardware, the video rental shop, the post office, and the Spar on 
the right (this is by no means a complete list).  The Tourist Office is located in the center of 
Main Street as it forks into Market Street (heading right) and Napoleon Street (heading left), 
with Market being the continuation of the main road.  Just beyond this intersection up on 
Market Street is the clock tower, the Market Building (market space, an office, and Joan's 
Bistro upstairs), a bar, and Thorpe's grocery on the right, with some various shops on the 
left (including Solomon's Souvenir, Pat Musk's shop, and the London Gift Shop).  Continuing 
even further up Market Street, you come to the schools on the left (a first and middle school 
in the same compound, with a shared play area in the center) before reaching the Salvation 
Army and the 7th Day Adventist Church (there is a Salvation Army branch up in Half Tree 
Hollow also — as well as a Jehovas Witness building).  A bit further up is the Baptist 
Church (where I would give a mini-concert for the kids on Thursday) and Dillon's (a bar with 
dancing) on the right.  Further on, you come to the turnoff for Ladder Hill Road on your 
right (though note that China Lane — which you approach first — is for one-way traffic 
coming off of Ladder Hill Road, with the one-way entrance for Ladder Hill on the next street).  
Up at the top of Market Street is also the Catholic Church, St. John's Church, and the 
Hospital (which, like the Tourist Office, is located in the center of a street which splits off 
into two smaller ones).  Along the way are some beautiful old buildings, and further up past 
Dillion's are some nicely-kept up apartments.
	Having only a little time this morning before the start of the tour, I just looked 
around the central Main Street area by the Consulate Hotel and post office.  During the 
week, most businesses in town don't open until 9:00am (the post office and the Spar open at 
8:30am), and with today being a Saturday morning, not too much was open even though the 
town was filled with locals walking about.
	At 9:00am it was time for the Charabanc tour, and a large group of us piled into the 
old green car.  It was probably the best weather for an open-top tour of this type: overcast 
but warm with no rain.  Pat & Morris didn't come along (they were off seeing old friends), 
but Pat/SA was here for her one day on the island (before hopping aboard the RMS to sail to 
Ascension), as well as James.  Colin is both the driver and owner of the car, and a pleasant 
fellow to have as a tour guide (his daughter Tracy who lives close to the Consulate Hotel 
with her son, helps out with the tour by preparing and delivering lunch for the passengers).  
For £12/US$18, you're given an all-day tour covering many of the island's important sites, 
complete with a lunch stop at the golf course.
	The first stop we made was at the Briars, an area nestled in the hills above 
Jamestown with a good view of the city below.  Here, we visited the house where Napoleon 
first stayed while exiled on the island — and while the house remains, the area is better 
known today as the spot where Cable & Wireless is located (the satellite dishes are here too).  
On display in the house are plenty of items related to Napoleon, including some of his letters 
(or copies of them, I'm not sure as no one was around to ask).  In the area an old man was 
tending a small plot of vegetables, and the nearby trees were filled with small, black noisy 
Indian minor birds.  Besides the Indian minors, plenty of other birds populate the island, 
including some small canary-like ones (both red and yellow) as well as the wirebird, St. 
Helena's native bird.
	From Briars, we drove onto Napoleon's grave (passing Mike, who stays up in the 
Briars area), where we stopped off the side of the road to take the short walk (about 10 
minutes) down a gentle grassy slope to the site (I couldn't understand why some of the other 
tourists thought it was such an ordeal to walk there and back... it really wasn't that far or 
steep — though at 83, James stayed in the car).  Though Napoleon's body was removed from 
his grave and sent back to France years ago, the site remains, with a grave, a shed, and a 
flagpole (presumably for the French flag) overlooking a nice patch of the island's green 
interior.  The path down to the site is shaded by plenty of pine and eucalyptus trees, and 
having to go to the bathroom with no loo in sight, I decided to make my own "water-loo" off 
in the trees on the way back.  While waiting for the others to return to the Charabanc, one 
of the other tourists mentioned a Millennium Forest project where anyone could donate 
£1/US$1.50 and plant a tree with their name on it.  It sounded like a good idea and 
something I wanted to do, but I never did get around to finding the correct person to speak 
to about it (though at the end of my trip, I did stumble upon the site).
	While driving, Colin mentioned there are now about 2,600 cars on the island... and 
while the fire department used to be staffed on a volunteer basis, it's now a full-time, 
regular-paying job (while walking later in the day, I came across a notice for firefighters 
wanted [male or female] on a community notice board, as well as an opening for deputy fire 
chief being advertised).
	From Napoleon's grave, we drove to Longwood, a large settlement on the eastern 
interior of the island where the land is a bit flatter, the homes a bit nicer, and there's a nice, 
pleasant feel to the whole area.  We soon stopped at Longwood House, the site where 
Napoleon lived for most of his stay on the island, eventually dying here after 6 years.  Like 
the gravesite, the house is considered French property, and a French council lives here to 
maintain the grounds.  Out front is a nice lawn and garden with the French flag flying, and 
inside, the house has been converted into a museum (free admission).  Though much of 
Longwood house has been rebuilt due to disrepair over the years, it's still an interesting 
place to visit, filled with various Napoleon memorabilia from documents and letters to a 
replica of his tiny bathtub.
	As interesting as Longwood House is though, I wasn't as interested in Napoleon as 
some of the others on the tour were, so while they were off spending more time inside the 
house, I decided to leave and check out the community of Longwood.  Asking Colin if I could 
walk around for a while, he said sure... and if I came back and the Charabanc wasn't 
around, just keep walking and head for the golf course, as they'd be heading there for lunch 
	Because Longwood is one of the few areas on the island where there's some flat land, 
I began to feel almost as if I wasn't on St. Helena anymore — until everyone I passed warmly 
greeted me with a wave or a hello.  The greetings don't just come from people passing you by 
on the street, but from those working in their yard or driving by as well (while driving, it's 
customary to wave or acknowledge the people you pass, whether they be drivers in other 
cars or pedestrians on the street).  Though most people on the island obviously didn't know 
who I was, many still waved to me while passing — and those who initially didn't would 
immediately respond with a wave as soon as I waved to them.
	Walking down the lovely main street towards the entrance to the Longwood area, I 
met three boys (probably 10-13 years old) busy throwing down a can of food as hard as they 
could to see if it would break open (I guess there's not too much to do on a Saturday 
morning).  Coming up to say hello to me, one of the kids looked at my Casio calculator/data 
bank watch and said he wanted one just like it, while a (white) boy volunteered that he had 
just moved to the island from the Falklands, and is living here now.
	 After a pleasant stroll down the main street, I turned around to head back to 
Longwood House, running into Peter at the local Solomon's grocery (this location has a 
petrol station).  Talking for a bit inside, I bought a small orange Club bar (20p/30c) and a 
telephone card for £2/US$3 (local calls on the island cost only 10p/15c, but overseas calls 
will eat through a card [in 50p increments] very quickly).
	Continuing on to the golf course, I passed the Longwood First School, and stopped to 
talk to a lady standing out on her lawn nearby.  In her 60s and a widow, she was quite nice 
and eager to talk to me about various things, including the need for an airport.  She 
mentioned that once when some people had lockjaw, an airplane managed to drop some 
supplies onto Deadwood Plain, but by then it was too late for one of them... there's definitely 
a medical need for an airport, as when someone gets seriously sick, there are very few 
options (not long ago, I heard about a young girl with leukemia who needed to go to Cape 
Town for treatment — with a Maersk container vessel having to go out of its way to pick her 
up and bring her back to Cape Town).
	Contiuing my walk back to the golf course, I passed a home for the 
retarded/disabled, as well as a new senior home being built... and soon I was with the rest 
of the group again, eating lunch on the benches outside the golf course (Colin's daughter 
Tracy had brought the lunch: delicious pilau, fish cakes, and soda).  When finished, I took 
another walk past the golf course while the rest of the group relaxed...
	The golf course is anything but green: when I was there that day, it was a large 
expanse of dry, brown grass — but the dry grass is also what the island's native wirebird 
likes, and this bird (found only on St. Helena) can often be seen on the golf course (though 
the only birds I saw here today were the colorful red or yellow canary types).  While the golf 
course is listed as 18 holes, there are really only 9 (with the last 9 acheived by playing the 
first 9 from the other direction). Out on the course was a donkey helping a man do some 
work, and I realized it's not often that one gets a chance to see a donkey out on a golf 
course. Both Mike and the Governor like to play here, but I never did have a chance to try a 
game myself.
	Coming to the end of the course, I went a bit further before turning around to meet 
up with the group again — who by now was busy talking to the old lady who lives at the golf 
course and handles the keys for the place.  She was about to have her 85th birthday next 
week, and mentioned that while she's on welfare, she earns a bit of money watching over the 
course.  Talking about health, she said the major problems on the island are high 
incidences of cancer, diabitis, and high blood pressure... and commenting on how hard it is 
to find work on St. Helena, she told us her son (who lives with her) was able to find work for 
only 3 days this past week (the island has something of a "work-fare" program, where, if you 
receive money from the government, you're to go out 3 days a week and work for it.  Mostly 
this entails simple jobs such as cutting away the flax, but it does help to boost the statistical 
number of people who are employed).
	After saying goodbye to the lady at the golf course, we continued on the tour as I 
asked Colin what people do in the evenings here... he answered that there used to be a 
cinema, but it closed down once videos came to the island... still, there are some local 
dances, games of skittles, pubs to visit (the Charabanc also does an evening country pub-
hopping tour), and many parts of the island have small community centres where events 
can be scheduled.
	Driving along in the Charabanc, we could see New Zealand flax all over the place... 
left over from the days when it was cultivated as a crop, the plant has been allowed to grow 
wild, and now covers a good portion of the island.  Efforts are now being made to get rid of 
it, but it must be done carefully or soil erosion will occur.  Seeing hillside after hillside 
covered in flax, I couldn't help but imagine what it would be like if the hills were covered in a 
more valuable crop instead, such as sugar cane.  St. Helena's climate is warm and humid, 
and I couldn't understand why no one has tried to plant sugar cane (or other such crops) in 
place of the flax.
	Passing the Levelwood First School, Colin pointed out that it had recently closed — 
as had a few other schools, due to the declining number of students and children on the 
island.  The kids must now be bussed to other schools, and for some it's not an easy trip: 
Colin mentioned that there were only 8-9 school buses for the entire island, and the ride 
each morning could be as long as 2 hours (with school starting at 9:00am), though for high 
school kids living in Jamestown, the bus ride out to Prince Andrew School is only about 20 
minutes (as I found out from Tracy and her son later that evening).
	Stopping at Silver Hill for a break, we all took a stretch and a look around.  There 
was a small Solomon's here, so I walked inside to buy yet another 20p/30c orange Club bar, 
noticing a sign on the door saying "Birthday cakes must be ordered 5 days in advance."  As 
well, there were notices posted with pictures and names of people who were not allowed to 
buy liquor (each person had their own sheet)... when I asked the cashier about it, she told 
me it's part of the punishment for getting into trouble (causing an accident, having a fight, 
etc.) — and the period of being banned from buying alcohol is usually for a year.  In front of 
the store overlooking the valley were three nice locals and their dog, just hanging around 
having a drink... and we all talked for a while before heading on our way.
	Continuing on the tour, we passed the Sandy Bay Clinic, and as I had heard that 
some people try to grow marijuana secretly on the island, asked Colin about it... he said that 
recently a 69yr-old man was caught growing the stuff, but because of his age, he was placed 
on probation instead of being sent to jail (if not for his age though, he most likely would 
have been sent to prison).
	Soon we reached Plantation House, the historic mansion where the appointed British 
Governor stays while on the island.  Though not allowed inside the house (tours have to be 
arranged in advance, and I missed the only one scheduled), we were allowed on the grounds 
— and there on the large grassy lawn of the mansion I met its most famous resident, 
Jonathan the tortoise.  Jonathan is thought to be close to 200 years old (the most recent 
study placed him between 175-200 years), and there were also 5 younger tortoises sharing 
the grounds with Jonathan.  While having a look at the friendly fellow, Colin came over and 
managed to make him come out of his shell and rise up on his legs for a bit... though slow, 
the tortoises are quite smart — and Colin said at night they all return on their own to their 
little sleeping area off to the side of the grounds.
	Having a look around, I noticed a domestic worker walking up and entering the gate 
to the house.  Stopping to ask if anyone like the Governor was home, she replied "yes, but 
he'd be sleeping about now" (it was 2:30pm).  The current Governor is David Hollamby, and 
while the islanders unanimously hated his wife, they seemed to give him mixed reviews... 
some didn't like the policies he was implementing, while others thought he was ok (though 
not as beloved as some previous Governors), and Colin mentioned that the Governor had 
given a speech recently which had made people quite angry, but not having heard it himself, 
didn't know the exact details.  In the end, I wound up spending a lot of time with the 
Governor and his wife aboard the RMS, and while I don't know enough about his policies to 
comment on them, he personally seemed like a nice enough fellow.
	With the end of the tour approaching, we drove through Half Tree Hollow... here I 
asked Colin if I could get out in order to climb down Jacob's Ladder, as I wanted my first 
time on the staircase to be in a downward direction.  Stopping for a few minutes at the top, 
Kevin and Cel took my picture, after which James climbed down 3 or 4 steps to pose for a 
shot himself (saying he'd tell his friends back at the retirement home that he climbed up it 
everyday).  At 699 steps (with each being approximately 11 inches high), Jacob's Ladder is 
almost 700 feet from top to bottom, but it's not as bad as it sounds if you're used to it.  As I 
started my descent, the group stayed at the top for a few moments to take a picture of me 
heading down.  There are some spectacular views of both Jamestown and James Bay from 
the Ladder, and it's something definitely worth doing at least once (I enjoyed it so much, I 
wound up going up and down it a number of times — including once going up at night).  
From the top, I thought about trying to slide down the Ladder as some kids do (a few people 
told me how to do it) — but seeing how steep it actually was, I decided not to take any 
chances (had St. Helena been the end of my vacation I might have tried it, but with most of 
my trip still to come, the last thing I wanted was a broken leg).  The proceedure is simple 
enough: lie down on your back, prop one foot on top of the opposite rail, and use your other 
foot as a brake against it when needed.  The hardest part though, is knowing when to let go 
with your hands (necessary every few feet in order to pass the poles supporting the rails).  
While walking down is much faster than climbing up, it still takes a while to descend 700ft... 
walking down fast without running takes about 5 minutes.
	Down at the bottom I ran into the group, who said they stayed on top for a few 
minutes to watch me walk down.  Earlier in the morning, I had arranged to meet Larry at 
3:00pm (the time Colin said we'd be finished), but looking around Jamestown at 3:30pm 
now, I couldn't find him anywhere.  I didn't actually need to see him for anything, but just 
wanted to let him know he could use the car for the rest of the day.  Not seeing him, I began 
to walk around town (my original plan), though I finally ran into him at 4:30pm (luckily he 
had only been looking for me for 10 minutes).
	With it being a Saturday afternoon, most shops and businesses closed at 1:00pm and 
wouldn't re-open again until 6:30pm (for some reason the Spar remained open until 4:00pm 
and re-opened at 6:30pm — I could never understand why they closed for just 2.5 hours).  
Thorpe's Grocery had the right idea however, and recently became the only store to stay 
open all day on Saturday, from 9am-8pm.
	In a store window, I noticed a sign for a dance going on tonight... the "12th Day of 
Xmas Dance" over at Dillion's (£1 admission, to help support the Ladies Orchestra) starting 
at 9:00pm, as the stores close at 8:30pm.  Today was indeed the 12th day of Christmas, and 
the seasonal lights and decorations were still up over Jamestown (though they'd be taken 
down shortly).
	With most places closed, most of the group went to relax at Anns Place (a partially-
covered restaurant in the beautiful Castle Gardens).  With limited supplies, St. Helenans 
must be inventive, and the restaurant's large flourscent sign was actually a Philips sign 
(complete with blue logo), modified to read "Ann's Place" instead of "Philips."  Sitting outside, 
we all chatted and relaxed as I ordered an ice-cream and Bitter Lemon (with plenty of bees 
buzzing around the glasses).  Ann (the owner) is an older, eccentric lady whose temperment 
can range from extremely nice to obstinant, and her daughter helps out at the restaurant as 
well, with the grandkids often around to play and talk with the customers.  Today while 
buying a telephone card from her, I mentioned that I collect them — after which she gave me 
a used one she had set aside in a tin, and told me if any other used ones come in, she'd save 
them for me.  This was a perfect example of Saint hospitality, and another one was this 
morning at the Tourist Office: when the lady there mentioned the possibility of reprinting 
some of the other posters, Larry immediately volunteered to send me one if they were 
	After the ice-cream I went for a walk around Jamestown... Passing the St. Helena 
Growers Co-operative Society, I noticed a sign on the Salvation Army's window mentioning 
that the thrift store would be closed from 21 Dec - 19 Jan.  On my left, I soon came to the 
first and middle schools (which share the same compound with a playground between the 
two)... though it was a holiday period, the gate was open, so I walked in to have a look.  
Outside, the two-story buildings (with a 1988 date on the middle school) didn't look like 
anything special, but behind the windows were nice bright classrooms filled with signs, art, 
and children's works... and there appeared to be a good-sized library as well.
	Further up the road is the Catholic Church and the Hospital, which I briefly entered 
for a quick look.  Inside, I spoke with a lady at the front desk for a few minutes, finding out 
that there are currently 3 doctors at the Hospital (1 from the UK and 2 from South Africa), 
and if you are St. Helenan (or a resident of the British Commonwealth), it's free to see a 
doctor, with just a small charge for prescriptions.  The Hospital is open 24hrs, and outside 
in the same compound is the outpatient building and the dentist's office.
	In the window of John's Store down the road were kid's plastic backpacks, going for 
£3.85-£4.95/US$5.78-US$7.43 (as is the case in Britain, the prices already include the 
VAT), and walking back to the Market Building, I made an overseas call from a nearby 
phone booth (using up £1.50 of a £2 phone card extremely fast), before joining Colin and an 
older taxi driver for a chat by the taxi rank: Solomon's, the large outfit that operates 
multiple stores of all types (supermarkets, hardware stores, souvenir shops, the Shipping 
Office) had been a family-run business until last year, when the government bought 84% of 
the shares — though shares are now being offered back to islanders for £2/US$3 each so 
that locals can own a piece of their future, as a large percentage of the island's business 
goes through Solomon's one way or another... as talk turned to politics, I was told that when 
Prince Andrew came to visit a while back (for only two days), he helped arrange funding for 
the new senior school, but during his speech apparently asked that it bear his name... I was 
told that the UK Government cut the island's budget for the next fiscal year (starting April 
1): the story I heard today was that when the Councilors protested, the Governor said 
"accept it or we'll just shut everything down — electricity, medical services, etc." — so the 
Councilors caved in without much choice.  Both men went on to say that the Councilors 
won't go against the Governor because they're paid by the UK Government, and are afraid 
that if they disagree, they'll be fired — and even if all 12 agree on something, the Governor 
can just veto it by himself.  But later while on board the RMS, the Governor gave quite a 
different version, as he mentioned that he made a concerted effort to have the Councilors 
take part in every step of the budget process (something that had not been done before), and 
they were apparently quite pleased to be able to do so.  Whichever version is true (perhaps 
something in between), budget and funding issues are as much of a sore point with many 
Saints as the citizenship issue.
	After a while I headed towards the water to meet the group at Donny's, but as it was 
now 6:30pm, the library at the Castle had re-opened — so I decided to have a quick look 
inside.  Outside the open door, the birds in the trees were incredibly noisy (not the most 
appropriate place for noise!) but inside was a nice, quiet library with rows of books (mostly 
older ones, along with a few new reference volumes), with both hardcover aisles and racks of 
softcover books (visitors are allowed to check out books with a refundable deposit).  When I 
asked the librarian where the books came from, she said they have a yearly budget from 
which they send away for books, but others are donated by visitors as well as locals.
	Walking down to meet the group at Donny's, we confirmed that we'd meet later at 
8:00pm for dinner in the Market Building.  As the stores in town were now open again, I 
returned back to look inside some of them... in Solomon's Hardware, a large touch-control 
microwave was selling for £169.95/US$254.93... a 340ml can of soda was 27p/41c... at The 
Emporium, I bought a small South African notepad (to scribble down notes into) for 
62p/93c... the video rental store had plenty of videos on the shelves for 50p/75c a night (the 
ones here were all legitimate copies, though other shops in town including Rose & Crown 
and the London Gift Shop had home-copied videos off British TV as well)... in Solomon's 
Souvenir Shop I bought a tiny 1/2-size folding pen, but the polo shirt I wanted they had 
only in XL.  The store did have Eric George's "Music on St. Helena" book, but was sold out 
(as was everyone else) of Eric's other book of St. Helena songs.
	Dinner with the group that evening was at Joan's Bistro upstairs in the Market 
Building... the cafe used to be called "Dot's", but due to her health, Dot retired, and Joan 
(who used to work on the RMS) took over.  While walking into the building, I noticed a group 
of musicians setting up outside and asked who they were... it was the Salvation Army Band, 
and they were getting ready to give a concert right there on the street corner.  As I knew I 
wouldn't have a chance to hear any of the island's other musical groups, I stood and 
watched for a while (running in just to order dinner) as they played some tunes between 
their leader speaking softly with a bullhorn.  The brass band was small (perhaps 12 
members?), and while not exceptional, they weren't bad either.
	While everyone was upstairs waiting to be served, I made a quick run to the Spar to 
pick up some groceries, and was once again surprised at the reasonable prices on the 
island: a small tube of AquaFresh toothpaste was 45p/68c... a large tube of CloseUp 
toothpaste was 79p/US$1.19... and tonight, I wound up buying an 8pk of mini Kellogs 
cereals (£2.69/US$4.04), the next-to-last 4pk of yoghurt (which indicated "no refrigeration 
necessary" but was in the cold area nonetheless — £1.12/US$1.68), 3 granny smith apples 
(16p/24c each), a large roll of ginger snaps (89p/US$1.34), and a mini orange Club bar 
(20p/30c) — as well as a copy of the St. Helena News (available every Friday, 15p).  Inside 
the store, only one register accepts Visa (something I didn't know while waiting in line at the 
other one), and no one's in a hurry to do anything.  Spar is the only business on the island 
that adds no surcharge if you use credit cards, even though like everyone else, they go 
through Barclay's Bank (as an interesting sidenote, when I returned home and received my 
Visa statement, the charges from the Jamestown Spar were listed as coming from the 
"South Georgia Museum, Falkland Islands, FK."
	  On the way back to the restaurant, I stepped into a store for a quick look, and 
found one M-sized St. Helena polo shirt left... the normal price was £10/US$15, but because 
there was a little thread coming off of it, the lady at the store voluntarily lowered the price to 
£9.50/US$14.25 without me even asking.
	Back inside Joan's, dinner was ready, and I sat down with Kevin, Cel, James, and 
Inga (the loud Dutch writer) for some tasty St. Helena cusine: two delicious fishcakes, chips 
(fries), and cole slaw for £1.80/US$2.70, with a drink being 30p/45c more.  While eating, 
Tracy came in to finalize plans for tomorrow night's country pub tour with Inga, and we 
talked for a while... though she's never left St. Helena (she looked to be in her 30s), she was 
planning on taking a short holiday to Cape Town soon... when I commented that I had 
wanted to send some email earlier, Tracy mentioned that she offers internet access from her 
house (near the Consulate Hotel), and to drop by anytime I wanted to use it (she charges 
15p/min, but must go through Cable & Wiresless for the connection, which charges 
everyone 10p/min for access, though they just announced a new weekend-only rate of 
5p/min)... when I asked what the average wage for someone like a cashier was on the 
island, she replied that the wage is calculated per day rather than per hour, and for 
someone like a Spar cashier, it would be around £6-£8/US$9-$12 per day (for a 9-5 day 
with a 1-hour lunch).
	As I had left the car with Larry to use for the day, I was given a lift back to Half Tree 
Hollow with Kevin and Cel, who were staying at a fancier self-catering flat just down the 
road from me.  With Cel driving (as Kevin was still using his crutch), we chugged up the hill 
in their rented South African VW "Citi" hatchback.
	One thing about Half Tree Hollow: if you're walking up from Jamestown (either by the 
road or by Jacob's Ladder), once you reach the top of the cliff, you still have a ways to go to 
get to where most of the houses are — and it's uphill all the way (for me it wasn't the walk 
up the stairs that was tiring as much as continuing to walk uphill from the top of the Ladder 
to where Larry & Joy live).  Kevin & Cel were staying with the Flaggs, who have a nice 
separated double-house (they rent out the right side of it on a self-catering basis) located 
about 2/3rds of the way up betwen the top of the Ladder and where I was staying.
	Returning to Larry & Joy's around 9:30pm, I went to my room to relax and write in 
my journal until 11:00pm.
	Some misc. information: water on the island is from ground springs, and not 
desalinated (years ago there was a desalinization plant at Rupert's Bay, but it hasn't been 
used in ages, though part of the old building still stands)... the sheep on the island aren't 
raised for wool, but rather for meat (the wool is just thrown out)... there are new Cable & 
Wireless telephone booths scattered throughout the island.  Always in good condition, they 
accept both cards and coins (cel phones haven't made it to St. Helena yet).  There is an LCD 
display which shows how much each unit will cost for the type of call you're making, how 
much time is left (ticking down) before another unit's worth is deducted from your card, and 
how much total time is left on the card at the current rate (there are also buttons on the 
phones for things such as "New Call" and "Redial")... school would begin again next week 
after the RMS has left for Cape Town... alcoholism is one of the island's big problems, and 
up on the wall of the police station was a notice with the number of an alcohol abuse line... I 
noticed a few ham antennas around, but not as many as I would have thought (there was 
one or two in Half Tree Hollow)... up on the Ladder Hill Road side of the cliff was some 
letters reading "We Welcome You Prince Andrew" (the Prince visited the island some years 
back)... throughout the city you'll see small little "H" signs posted up on the walls in various 
locations.  At first I wasn't quite sure what they were, but my initial guess proved to be 
correct: it stands for Hydrant, and is an indicator of a hydrant's location (though they must 
be hidden or under a manhole cover, as there certainly weren't any hydrants in plain view)... 
and finally if the rooster wasn't bad enough, there was a battery-operated wall clock hanging 
in my bedroom at Larry & Joy's, ticking away — so each night I'd remove the battery (to 
silence the noise) and insert it again in the morning, re-setting the time.

Jan. 7: St. Helena [Scout Camp]
	Today the rooster started at 3:54am and continued throughout the morning (I could 
hear that Larry was up from it as well, though he was able to go back to sleep).  Over 
breakfast Joy said the rooster (in a cage behind my window) belonged to the neighbor... but 
they were used to it and I wasn't.
	Talking about other things, Joy told me she gets fresh eggs from a man living in 
Sandy Bay who comes by every week... and for fish, there's a truck which drives around the 
island selling fresh fish.  People on St. Helena are paid with cash rather than checks, but if 
anyone wants to put some money aside they can open a passbook account at the Castle, 
where the government has its offices and the island's banking is done.  St. Helena generally 
operates on a cash economy, and Joy mentioned that the few merchants which accept credit 
cards only started doing so recently — though they were eager to set the system up, as in 
the past, tourists would come to the island and find they didn't have enough money to buy 
things or call home (with the occupants of the many visiting yachts often not having British 
pounds on them).
	During the day yesterday my suntan lotion turned to watery liquid... telling Kevin 
about it, he suggested placing it in a refrigerator overnight to re-congeal (which I did) — but 
as I removed it from Joy's refrigerator this morning, all that awaited me was cold, runny 
liquid (I continued to use it throughout the trip though, as it still seemed to work).  At 
9:22am I heard the RMS' A-major whistle, indicating that it was ready to set sail for 
Ascension... though you can't see the ship from Half Tree Hollow while it's anchored, there's 
a nice view of it sailing away or arriving.
	Today was Sunday — parent's day at the Scout camp, when parents were invited out 
to Thompson's Wood to have a picnic and be with their kids.  As Scoutmaster, Larry had left 
the week-long camp for two days in order to meet me (leaving someone else in charge), but 
would return today and stay through Wednesday when camp was to finish with a planned 
march through the streets of Jamestown.  Joy was going to go for the day as well, and both 
invited me to come with them (Larry was especially looking forward to seeing the kids' 
reactions when he showed up — for as a joke, he had told them he was sailing to Ascension 
on the RMS).  With the bus to the Scout camp not scheduled to come by until 10:30am 
though, I first had time for a short walk around Half Tree Hollow.
	Walking uphill, I passed the HTH branches of Spar and C&M's, as well as the local 
clinic and the Salvation Army.  The Spar up here has a petrol station (at 51p/77c a litre — 
£1.93/US$2.90 a US Gallon), though being a Sunday, just about everything was closed.  
Next to the Spar is a public toilet, and though clean, there wasn't any toilet paper inside 
(luckily I always keep a bit in my daypack).  Continuing up past the Spar to the left was a 
row of nicer homes, quite a bit fancier than the others in the area... at the end of this street 
was just a pile of dirt and rock, but from the edge was a great view of the valley below — and 
while walking back, people constantly greeted me "good morning."
	At 10:05am I heard the RMS toot again, and a few minutes later, could see it 
departing for Ascension.  For just a moment I realized what it must be like to live on St. 
Helena... for as I watched the RMS sail away, I knew that there was now no way to leave this 
island until the RMS returned next week — and if it were to be delayed, I'd simply have to 
wait until it finally did return.  While walking back to Larry & Joy's, Michelle (whom I played 
Scrabble against on board the RMS) drove past in her car... recognizing me, she waved hello 
and tooted.
	Back at the house at 10:25am, I met Larry's granddaughter Candice, who would be 
joining us on the outing.  While waiting, the subject of language and the St. Helena accent 
came up, with Larry mentioning that visitors often have difficulty understanding Saints 
when they speak.  Peter (the South African journalist) later compared two Saints talking 
together to two people speaking a foreign language — but it's really not that bad, and if you 
actually pay attention to the conversation (instead of just hearing it as background noise), 
it's easy to understand.
	At 10:45am a small bus came by and the four of us piled in, joining the many other 
people on board headed out to the Scout camp.  Everyone else knew each other of course, 
but Larry and Joy introduced me to them all, and everyone was extremely friendly (with 
most toting around plenty of food for the picnic).
	After stopping along the way to pick up more people we finally arrived at Thompson's 
Wood, a nice area of flat pasture surrounded by rolling green hills in the west-central part of 
the island.  The area is used for cattle grazing much of the time, but doubles as a 
campground during holiday periods when the cattle are moved to the surrounding hillsides 
to graze (there's a block of toilets and showers for campers here).
	As the weather was overcast and cool, the first thing we did was put up a tarp to 
have lunch under later (tying it to our bus, a nearby tree, and some stakes in the ground).  
Though the weather was cloudy, it didn't turn bad until the late afternoon and didn't seem 
to dampen anyone's spirits.  After the tarp was up, Larry took me to meet the kids (who 
indeed were surprised to see him, saying "hey, you said you were going to Ascension!") and 
show me around the large mess tent where everyone ate their meals.  The camp was for 
Scouts of all ages (no Girl Guides), and with plenty of people around (arriving not only in the 
buses but in their own cars as well) it looked like a good turnout — though Larry 
commented that there weren't as many as usual, perhaps due to the RMS having just been 
in port.
	As I relaxed under the tarp, the ladies began taking out the food they brought with 
them and setting it out on the table for everyone to share.  There was tons of it, all delicious: 
homemade stews, curry, chicken, pork, rice, potatoes — you name it, as well as plenty of 
sodas, snacks, and desserts.  Along with everything else I tried a bit of the British dish of 
spicy rice served inside animal gut (something I hadn't tried before), and had a wonderful, 
filling lunch.  Besides the main meal, people also passed around simple bread-and-tomato-
paste sandwiches, which the Saints call "Bread and Dance", as they're always served at 
	Sitting down on the grass, I wound up talking with Raymond Yon (whose son was 
attending the camp) and Mickey Benjamin (the older driver of our bus).  Raymond has been 
to the US, as some time ago he went to work on Ascension and the American company he 
worked for sent him to Pennsylvania to study refrigeration and air-conditioning (he's also an 
electrician, and currently works for Solomon's).  The three of us talked for quite a while 
about some of the issues facing St. Helena, including the current citizenship problem, the 
number of Saints who must work overseas due to the island's high unemployment (usually 
on Ascension or the Falklands), and local politics — from the reduction of UK funding to the 
lack of political power Saints feel they have in the current system.  One thing I picked up 
everytime I was around a Saint was their unwavering patriotism towards England (even after 
the way they've been treated), and when I asked Raymond if any Saints served in the British 
military, he proudly told me there were currently about 50 young Saints in the British 
Armed Forces.
	The most talked-about subject on St. Helena now is the idea of building an airport to 
service the island.  As things currently stand, the only way to move people and cargo 
between St. Helena and the outside world is via the RMS St. Helena — one lone ship which 
has had some serious breakdown problems.  While the idea of an airport isn't new, it has 
been brought to the forefront recently due to two competing privately-funded proposals as 
well as a reminder of the island's isolation when a local girl diagnosed with leukemia last 
year had to be taken to Cape Town for treatment on a cargo liner kind enough to turn 
around and pick her up.  Locals seem to want the airport for the services it will bring the 
island (a steady supply of fresh cargo, easy transport to the outside world, and emergency 
medical evacuations when needed), but the problem has been who will build and fund the 
project.  Both current proposals involve private financing, and are somewhat controversial: 
one is tied to the building of a luxury hotel and golf course on the island (with the airport's 
main purpose to ferry rich overseas tourists to the resort — though the company promises 
jobs and concessions for locals)... but I can't help but wonder what good will come to the 
rest of the island from tourists interested only in playing golf in a secluded resort.  The other 
plan is more even-handed, but to date neither proposal has been able to put together the 
funding to move past the initial planning stages, and many people (including the Governor) 
seem to feel that in the end, the best solution would be for the UK Government to build the 
airport themselves.  The UK subsidizes the RMS St. Helena, and there's an ongoing study to 
determine if it would be more practical to fund an airport rather than to build and subsidize 
a replacement RMS in a few years.  Even if an airport is built though, the problem still 
remains of what airline will fly there and if it will be cost-effective for them to do so.  Talk is 
of flights to-and-from the UK and Cape Town, though Ascension (if permission for civilian 
flights is obtained) and even Windhoek Namibia (as the closest major airport) have been 
mentioned.  Of course the other factor one must consider is how the building of an airport 
will affect the lifestyle on St. Helena — an island used to isolation from the outside world.  
While talking with Raymond and Mickey, the subject of an airport came up, and while just 
about everyone I spoke to on St. Helena was solidly behind building one, Raymond was one 
of the few people to voice an awareness of the negatives that an airport would bring.  
Though not opposed to the idea (progress has to happen), he nonetheless expressed 
concerns over how it would change the island's way of life — though in the end, he felt that 
if for nothing other than medical reasons, an airport of some sort needs to be built.
	Raymond has a computer, and now that the internet is on the island he can email 
friends around the world.  Mentioning he had a friend on Tristan da Cunha (whom he met 
when the fellow came to study refrigeration on St. Helena), when Raymond found out I'd be 
headed for Tristan next, he asked if I'd be willing to deliver a letter to his friend from him.  I 
gladly agreed, but in the end he never got around to writing it.
	After relaxing and having lunch, Raymond and Mickey offered to take me on a walk 
around the area.  Some of the ladies said they'd come along as well, but would follow behind 
a bit later.  Heading off for Man and Horse (a nice lookout point further on ahead), I 
thoroughly enjoyed the fantastic views of Sandy Bay and Sperry Island along the way.  After 
a while, a couple in a red pickup truck drove by and offered us a lift to the summit (they 
were headed there as well, as Sunday afternoon is when people traditionally go out for drives 
or walks).  Saving time (and a steep walk), we were soon at the top of Man and Horse, taking 
in the view.  After heading back down, we ran into the ladies who decided to go out 
walking... trying to bluff them, Raymond and Mickey said we had walked to the top already 
(not mentioning the lift), though the ladies didn't believe it.  Still, stretching the truth for a 
bit of fun seems to be something Saints like to do now and then: when running into some 
kids later on, Raymond and Mickey bragged again that we had walked to the top, and 
continued to stand by their story even when the kids knew they were pulling their leg ("no... 
you got a lift... we saw the car!")  Meeting the ladies down below, we all decided to head back 
to the campground via a more direct route, through the rolling green hills and fields rather 
than the road.
	Along the way I talked quite a bit with Raymond and Mickey about life on St. Helena: 
Raymond pointed out a lone house in the distance without an electrical hookup, telling me 
the guy who lives there has phone service, but for just the one house, it didn't pay for the 
electric company to wire the area.  Raymond mentioned that electricity didn't come to St. 
Helena until the 1950s or so, and if you grew up used to not having it, being without it now 
isn't really a big deal... when he was a kid, Raymond used to slide down Jacob's Ladder (or 
skip down it two steps at a time), though now he walks down via the road in the morning for 
exercise and takes the company bus back up in the evening (there is no public bus service 
on the island, but because of the steep roads, the government and some companies supply 
buses to pick up and drop off their employees)... the island's population has remained fairly 
constant, but the birth rate has declined recently, and there are now less kids on the island 
than at any other time in recent history, forcing some schools to close and the students to 
be bussed to other ones... many places on St. Helena have colorful names ("Man and 
Horse"), and Mickey mentioned a few more: on Ladder Hill Road, there's a sharp turn which 
the locals call "Frenchman's Leap" because some time ago two French men missed the turn 
there and drove off the cliff after having too much to drink.  The car was totaled, but 
miraculously, they were found walking to the hospital with only minor scratches.  Another 
colorful place name is "Ten Pound Rice", named after the place where a 10-pound bag of rice 
once fell off a donkey transporting it, causing the rice to spill all over the road.  Finally, 
there's a point called "Emily's Jump", where a girl named Emily once jumped from to 
commit suicide.
	Back at the campsite we all relaxed and talked for a while until the weather started 
turning cold and windy.  At 5:45pm we thought about heading back, and soon began taking 
down the tarp and packing everything up.  At 6:20pm we were already in the bus, dropping 
people off on the way into town... looking out the window at the areas we were passing, I 
began to get a feel for the layout of the island.  When we arrived in Half Tree Hollow but 
didn't stop, Joy said we'd be going down to Jamestown first, and would be left off last — but 
as the usual RMS group had planned to meet that evening for dinner, I decided to get off the 
bus in Jamestown.
	Meeting everyone at Donny's (Cel, Kevin, James, Pat, Morris, and Peter), I was told 
they only had fried chicken and chips left, even though all I wanted was a cheeseburger.  
Without much choice I ordered both, as we each talked about our respective activities for 
the day.  Morris mentioned that Basil George said the home ownership rate on the island is 
80% (with most housing on the island consisting of homes not apartments)... and Morris 
further commented that "if you upset one person here, you upset a whole bunch of them", 
because everyone is either related or very close.  I told the group that earlier in the day Larry 
commented that Scouting was important because it helps keep kids off the street — and 
that while it's still very small, there is nonetheless a drug problem on the island.
	Donny's is only open Thursday through Sunday (being closed Monday through 
Wednesday), and when a disappointed Cel asked why they would be closed for the next few 
days even with plenty of prospective business from RMS passengers, the lady said it was 
their policy, as on the days they're open, they stay open pretty late.  Out in the water, we 
could see the lights of the night fishing boats while we ate.
	When finished at Donny's, Kevin and Cel gave me a lift up to Half Tree Hollow again, 
dropping me off at Larry & Joy's, where I wrote a bit in the journal before going to sleep.  
Though it wasn't an overly-exciting day, I quite enjoyed it, as it gave me a chance to meet, 
talk to, and relax with Saints in an everyday setting.
	Some misc. info: private car license plates on St. Helena have a number 1 to 4 digits 
long, but if the vehicle is licensed to carry public passengers (a bus, a taxi, etc.) there will be 
a space and an additional number indicating the amount of passgengers it's allowed to carry 
(for instance, "1350 4" indicates the license plate number is 1350, and the vehicle is 
permitted to carry 4 passengers)... there's no home insurance on the island... most houses 
have laundry lines outside for clothes to dry on instead of electric dryers... people here 
smoke — not overly so, but enough to notice after being in Malaysia and South Africa, where 
a much smaller percentage of the population smokes (Mickey, in fact, smoked while driving 
the bus this morning)... and trash is collected twice a week.

Jan. 8: St. Helena [Farm Lodge / Sandy Bay / Ann's Place]
	Even after taking a sleeping pill last night, I was wide awake when the rooster started 
even earlier this morning at 3:20am.
	Last night I told Joy I'd drop her off at work in the morning, and at 8:00am she was 
ready to go.  Joy had prepared a nice packed lunch for me today (a ham-cheese-tomato 
sandwich and some sweetened sparkling water) — very nice of her, as I was supposed to 
take care of my own food.
	As Joy doesn't drive and Larry was still at the Scout camp, I had my first crack at 
driving the car this morning.  I had hoped to be able to practice driving the stick car alone at 
first — or at least on a road other than Ladder Hill with its steep grade and narrow width — 
but in the end it was a trial by fire, as I carefully started the car and had my first real taste 
not only of stickshift driving, but of St. Helena's steep roads.  Helping matters was the fact 
that since the downhill grade was so steep, I could pretty much just ride the clutch — and 
on the one occasion where another car was coming up the hill (thankfully most traffic in the 
morning is headed downhill), he waited for me to pass.
	I was at the bottom of Ladder Hill Road by 8:10am, and after dropping Joy off at the 
Hospital, drove to the post office while trying to remember just what needed to be done to 
change gears.  Though nervous at first, I picked up stickshift driving quickly, becoming 
comfortable with it after just a half an hour or so.
	Parking the car in the center of town (with parking spaces located in the middle of the 
street), I headed first for the post office, about the only business to open at 8:30am rather 
than 9:00am.  At 8:15am the post office door was already open, so I walked in to see if they 
were ready to start serving customers.  Inside, a lady at the counter told me "we're supposed 
to open at 8:30am, but it may be later today, as I've just started back again and I don't know 
when the other lady will be here... maybe 9:30am?"  To pass the time, I wandered around 
the nearby area for a bit (having a look at the Consulate Hotel across the street), but as 
everything else was still closed, I returned at 8:30am.
	The post office has two entrances: the door on the left is for normal post office 
business (as well as maps of the island), while the door to the right leads to a separate 
philatelic counter (for souvenir stamps, first-day issues, etc).  At 8:30am I walked into the 
philatelic side, and noticing the VISA sign, asked if I could use VISA to buy some maps.  
Unfortunately the answer was no: credit cards can only be used on the "souvenir" side, and 
can't be used for normal post office business or to purchase maps.
	Though there were plenty of ladies behind the counter waiting to begin helping 
customers, they were unable to do so until the lady with the keys arrived — which she did at 
8:45am.  At that point, I bought three large maps of St. Helena — one to use while driving, 
one to give to Russell and Judith (they had asked for one), and one to keep for myself.  The 
large maps are available in color (£5, recommended) or black and white (£1), but the post 
office also sells a smaller A4-size color one — though it's only a general map, and is of little 
use while driving.  Wanting to send a large map home, I asked the lady if she had any 
cardboard tubes I could use to mail it in (and perhaps a second one to carry Russell and 
Judith's around in for the next few weeks).  At first she didn't think so, but was nice enough 
to go in back to look.  Sure enough, she managed to find two tubes, and gave them to me 
free of charge (she had a hard time trying to get a map to fit inside one of them, but 
somehow I was able to squeeze it in).  The one in the thinner tubing I mailed off to myself 
(85p/US$1.28), and it finally arrived almost four months later.
	With a map for driving now, I started my first day of touring St. Helena by car.  
Though the faded green Ford Escort Ghia was a 5-speed, nothing above 3rd gear is needed 
on the island — and usually nothing above 2nd.  Once on a short bit of straightaway, I tried 
to get into 4th — but within a few seconds, it was time for 2nd again (the most sensible gear 
to use on the island).  Though St. Helena follows British driving practices, drivers here don't 
drive on the "left", they drive on the "road" — as many are wide enough for only one car.  
Often when a car approaches from the opposite direction, one of you must either back up or 
move to the side in order to pass each other — indeed, as I was driving up Jamestown's 
main street headed towards Ladder Hill Road, traffic was stopped for a good 2-3 minutes in 
order to let a garbage truck do its rounds (locals didn't seem to mind the wait or try to pass, 
so neither did I).
	The first thing I did after driving back to Half Tree Hollow was head for St. Paul's 
Cathedral.  Though nice, it's quite small (as are most island churches outside of 
Jamestown), and I soon continued driving, trying to look at all the green surrounding me 
while still keeping an eye on the road.
	A bit later I passed a sign reading "Lemon Valley —>", so I stopped to have a look.  It 
appeared to be the start of a hiking path, but looking around the car I realized I had left my 
book on St. Helena walks back at the house.  Still, I wanted to give the path a try, so I 
parked the car, put some water in the daypack, and started down the trail.
	One refreshing thing about St. Helena is that you can leave your car unlocked 
anywhere, and nothing will be taken from it or happen to it, even if items are left in plain 
sight.  This took a bit of getting used to, for in just about anyplace else in the world, locking 
your car after getting out is as automatic as walking away from it — but here (as people will 
gladly tell you), there's no need to lock your car.  Throughout the week I would constantly 
leave the car unlocked, with the windows rolled down and items left in plain view on the seat 
— but not once was anything ever taken (at first I'd lock it out of habit before reminding 
myself I didn't need to!)
	Partially cloudy though still hot, I left the car to walk down the Lemon Valley path, 
having no idea where it led to.  Passing plenty of trees, flax, and prickly pear cacti, I soon 
realized I should have put on my running shoes instead of wearing sandals with all the 
stones and thorns in the dirt.  Off in the distance I could hear what sounded like water 
coming from the valley below, but after 40 minutes I decided to turn back around, as 
without the walking book, I had no idea where the trail actually ended.  Various people I met 
later on (including the owner of the Farm Lodge) told me the popular Lemon Valley hike 
ends at the water (where people like to swim), and I must have been close to the bottom, as 
it typically takes about an hour each way.
	Back in the car, I drove through Scotland and Mt. Eternity (a beautiful part of the 
island), reaching the quaint, super-tiny "St. Martin's in the Hills" church (complete with four 
rows of pews).  From there, I continued on to the equally gorgeous areas of Crack Plain and 
Blueman's Field, where the road suddenly ends at a small plant store (Cedarvale Plant 
Centre) and some very nice paths begin.  With no one around, I parked the car and began to 
walk down the lower path for 5-6 minutes until it seemed to end at a house.  Surprisingly 
wired for electricity, the isolated house off by itself was quite charming, and I could hear 
people's voices coming from inside.  Not wanting to bother them though, I turned around 
after looking at the rolling green hills.  Back at the car, two vehicles were now parked next to 
mine, so I decided to walk into the plant store (now open) for a look around.  Inside, a man 
was talking to a woman and her kid... the man lived in the area, and when he heard I had 
walked to the house, he told me it was possible to continue on to the pasture — just keep 
following the path as it splits.  Hearing this, I decided to have another go, as it was an 
extremely nice walk under some shady trees.  After 5-6 minutes I was at the house again — 
and sure enough, there's a lower path that continues past it.  Passing the sheep in the 
house's paddock, I reached the rolling green hills of the pasture, and sat down for a rest and 
a bite to eat.  Taking out a small box of Kellogs Cocoa Krispies, two nearby grazing sheep 
approached me to see what I was doing, but kept their distance.  By now the sun had 
started to come out, and the weather was becoming even warmer.
	After walking back to the car (where the people were now gone and the plant store 
was once again closed), I tried to drive back towards Plantation House in order to get to 
Sandy Bay — but only the major intersections on the island have any signs, and these signs 
will only indicate one particular place where the road heads to... if you don't know the island 
well and don't see your destination as one of the choices, you've got to guess which way to 
go.  Turning the wrong way by mistake, I wound up on a secondary road not even realizing it 
was no longer the thick red line on the map.  At an intersection, I asked a construction 
worker taking a lunch break which way to go... he replied "head for Scotland to go to 
Plantation House" (left) — but then I noticed the other choice of direction (to the right) was 
labelled "Farm House" — and remembering Peter raving about a Farm Lodge last night at 
Donny's, thought I'd check it out first.
	Sure enough, just a bit down the road was Farm Lodge: an amazing old house that's 
been restored and turned into a high-end B&B.  When I stopped the car to have a look 
around, the owner (an ex-pat named Steven) came out to greet me and show me around.  
Originally built in 1740 (with the 2F added in 1790), it was in terrible shape when Steven 
and his wife came over from the UK six years ago to take it over and turn it into a 
B&B/hotel.  Work on it is still being done, and as I was shown the various rooms, a local 
Saint was hard at work installing a shower.  Currently six people can be housed in the 
finished rooms, but once all the work is complete, ten will be able to stay in the house.  On 
the grounds outside, finger bananas ("nanas" as the locals call them) and coffee is grown, 
though usually just for consumption by B&B guests unless they have an unusually 
abundant crop.  In the living room, Steven showed me something that came with the 
property when he bought it: Napoleon's original wine cooler (set out in the middle of the 
room), and out in back, he's trying to re-build a pond that was once there years ago.  Steven 
worked on ships for over 30 years (spending much of that time as head purser on the RMS), 
and when it came time to retire he decided on St. Helena, telling me how much he loves the 
island (though he does go back to civilization for a visit each year).  There were no guests 
staying at the Lodge today, but Steven needs to work harder at getting the word out, for it's 
an amazing place where many people would stay if only they knew about it.  Its location out 
in the country can either be a plus or minus depending on what you prefer... it certainly is 
in a beautiful part of the island, though it'd be more convenient to stay here if you have your 
own transportation (Steven mentioned many guests hire taxis).  The rates aren't as cheap as 
other places, but for those who savor the idea of staying in a beautiful old country house, 
there's no better choice.  Before leaving, I bought a Sprite (40p/60c) from Steven as he 
offered to have his partner show me the correct road to Plantation House.  Saying it wasn't 
necessary though, I thanked him and went on my way.
	As I continued driving, I passed the George Benjamin Endemic Garden, and stopped 
to have a look.  George Benjamin is the premiere botanist on St. Helena, and the garden 
bearing his name contains many of the island's rare and endemic plants (we actually passed 
the area while driving out to the Scout camp yesterday).  The small patch of land by the road 
with picnic tables contains such plants as the "she" and "he" cabbage trees (the "she" 
cabbage tree was once thought to be extinct, but was found again in 1977) as well as the 
Lobelia, some ferns, and many others.  Thankfully the fellows with the noisy tree trimming 
machines working by the side of the road stopped by the time I finished looking at the 
plants, and sitting down at one of the picnic tables, I took out some lunch.  The sun soon 
began to come out though, so I moved to the inside of a little wooden shelter up in the 
corner of the garden, where I ate the packed lunch Joy had made for me.  Besides the 
garden area by the road, there's also a foot path which leads down an extensive trail — 
though I decided not to spend the time exploring it.  Across the road from the Garden is yet 
another path, but I only walked down it for a few minutes before turning around.
	From the Endemic Garden I headed next to Sandy Bay — and managed to find the 
correct road on my own (stopping only once on the way down to verify I was headed the right 
way).  The road to Sandy Bay is fun to drive, consisting of numerous sharp hairpin curves 
while heading down (and later up) a steep grade.  There are scattered homes throughout the 
area, as well as a Thorpe's store, a Solomon's, and an abandoned Baptist Chapel.  Heading 
down, there are some great views of Lot (the rock formation resembling a mitten) and some 
small farms near the end, but the area right by the water is almost all brown-and-orange 
dirt.  Sandy Bay itself is not sandy — instead, it has lots of small, smooth rocks which make 
interesting sounds as the waves advance and retreat around them.
	Parking the car and getting out, no one else was around (though Kevin and Cel later 
said they were here earlier in the day and saw people fishing).  Walking down to the water to 
wade my feet, I was surprised at how warm the water was... living in North America, I had 
always been conditioned into thinking that the Atlantic was the colder ocean — but not on 
St. Helena!  Here the water was quite warm, and Sandy Bay is a popular swimming spot 
(sadly obvious from the porta-potty and trash).  Off in the distance was the remains of an 
old brick archway, and I noticed most of the small rocks here were black and volcanic.  
Picking up two to take home as souvenirs, I practiced stone-skipping with others on the 
small, strong waves breaking close to shore.
	After relaxing by the water, I decided to head back... driving up the hill, I honked the 
horn constantly on the blind curves (short, unobtrusive toots, as I know people live in the 
area).  On the way up, I stopped in at the small Solomon's Sandy Bay store, where inside, an 
old man and a middle-aged man with his young daughter were looking at the available items 
to buy, taking their time in deciding.  When I asked the middle-aged man why there are 
remains of an archway by the water, he didn't know how to answer me except to say that 
there used to be a wall all the way around the area, but all that's left now are the ruins.  
When I then asked how long it would take to drive back to Jamestown leisurely, the man 
replied "Leisurely?  About 25 minutes... Yeah, not rushing..." — and he was right on the 
nose, as it would have been 25 minutes had I not run into the evening traffic rush in the 
Half Tree Hollow area.  Buying a mint Wonderbar and a grape Fanta (39p/59c total), I 
continued on my way.
	Back in Half Tree Hollow at about 4:15pm, I encountered the stready stream of traffic 
coming up Ladder Hill Road from Jamestown below... as the shops and offices begin to close 
and people start driving home, just about everyone who lives outside of Jamestown needs to 
begin their drive home by heading up either Ladder Hill Road or the equivalent road on the 
other side of Jamestown.  Behind a truck going down, we were constantly pulling off to the 
side to give the right-of-way to a steady stream of cars coming up the road, and the short 
distance from Ladder Hill Fort down to Jamestown took a good 10 minutes this afternoon.
	Back in town, I first went to Solomon's Souvenir Shop to see if the cashier there was 
able to find any St. Helena T-shirts in medium (she told me the other day she'd check in 
back)... unfortunately she wasn't able to find any, but I did find a "Dive St. Helena" T-shirt 
from the "Rose & Crown" shop up the street (a store which also sells boom boxes and rents 
videos).  Wanting to send some email, I walked over to Cable & Wireless, but a person in an 
upstairs office told me they had closed at 4:00pm.  Trying to then meet Eric Benjamin 
(someone whom I had corresponded with before coming to St. Helena), I walked over to the 
London Gift Shop, which he co-owns with a lady: half the store (Eric's side) sells musical 
supplies from guitar strings to metronomes, and the other half sells fashion accessories and 
jewelry.  Meeting Eric's wife inside, she told me Eric was at a meeting, but that she'd tell him 
I stopped by (I then bought a St. Helena cufflink and sticker from the other side of the store).  
Going into the Market Building to make a phone call (but the phone there was an older 
coins-only model), I walked out to see a man in a white shirt and tie coming up to introduce 
himself to me... it was Eric Benjamin (his wife had pointed me out) — a musician and 
conductor of one of the island's orchestras, Eric was a nice guy who offered to help in 
anyway he could while I was on the island.  As we started talking, I found out he's also a 
photography buff (with a Canon AE-1 camera, though he was currently using a digital 
camera to help out a local office in town with the internet).  As he had to return to his 
meeting we said goodbye, but I would see him around town a few more times before leaving 
— and before going, he pointed out the house where Colin's daughter Tracy lives (so I could 
check my email: it's the blue building near the Consulate Hotel).
	I next went to phone Mike to find out when he had booked the radio station for us to 
tape his Classical Hour show: it would be Wednesday at 1:00pm, and we arranged to meet 
by Plantation House beforehand so Mike could show me the way to the station.
	As the sun had finally come out, I decided to locate Jamestown's large, olympic-sized 
swimming pool (as you walk towards the water, it's outside the archway to the right).  As 
soon as I saw it, I wanted to jump right in — only I didn't have my swim trunks on and it 
closed at 6:00pm (it was now 5:30pm).  The pool is wonderful though, and costs only 
35p/53c for adults and 15p/23c for children under 8.  Howard (my bunkmate from the 
RMS) was at the pool swimming with two Saint friends of his, and we talked for a bit before I 
wandered off and ran into Kevin and Cel — who invited me up for dinner at their place later 
(Cel was going to cook up at the flat).
	Heading over to Tracy's house to see about the internet connection, I saw a group of 
people waiting at the Consulate Hotel for the evening "country pub tour" which Colin runs in 
his Charabanc... so I went over to chat with them for a bit.  A few minutes later Tracy came 
by, and I asked about using her computer.  "Sure," she said, "just a minute..." as she took a 
picture of the group with her digital camera, which would later be printed out by the 
computer for optional purchase.  Taking me into her home/office after the group left, I sat 
down at the computer downstairs as her young son came over to watch, curious as to what I 
was doing.  Though I was able to telnet on her computer, the dial-up connection was so slow 
that I switched to my web-based email (where copies of my mail were being forwarded).  The 
painfully sluggish connection wasn't Tracy's fault... everyone I spoke to said the slow 
connection was typical (and thus makes it extremely impractical and expensive to do any 
significant downloading).  The cost was £2/US$3 for 15 minutes, but I accomplished what I 
needed to do (including looking up a friend's address so I could send a postcard off to her).  
When finished, I only had a £10 note — and as Tracy didn't have any change handy, she 
told me "just pay me when you see me next time."
	When done with my email, I drove back up Ladder Hill Road to the Flaggs' place, 
where Kevin and Cel were staying.  In the gravel driveway, the car stalled on me (Cel took it 
the rest of the way in), but from then on, I never needed help again.  However once at the 
flat, Cel said that we'd be going back into town to join Pat & Morris for dinner at Ann's Place 
	Earlier in the day, Pat and Morris had arranged dinner for six at Ann's Place (as at 
most restaurants on the island other than Donny's you're asked to make advance 
reservations).  In the end, most of us (Kevin, Cel, James, and myself) just kind of decided 
not to go — but when Pat & Morris showed up by themselves and told Ann it would only be 
the two of them, Ann became quite angry at Pat, saying she had already cooked dinner for 
six.  Pat called Cel up to ask if we wouldn't come to dinner with them as originally planned, 
and Cel agreed.  I can see Ann's point... we had made a reservation and then it was changed 
from six to two... though Pat seemed pretty upset with how mad Ann had been at her — and 
upon arriving, we were given a choice of meals (stuffed lamb or tuna), making us wonder if 
the meals really had been cooked on not, especially when it took quite a while to be served (I 
opted for the tuna while everyone else ordered the lamb).  My meal was actually quite tasty 
(though luke-warm) — but Kevin's was downright cold (enough to where he asked it to be 
heated again).  Kevin and Cel were upset, Pat was just happy she didn't have to endure 
being yelled at alone, and I was somewhat indifferent to the whole affair (my food wasn't hot, 
but it wasn't cold either... and though Ann didn't have to act the way she did, it's true that 
we originally said there'd be six people).
	While eating dinner, I remembered that I needed to call Basil George: I had called him 
earlier in the day to let him know I wouldn't be joining his tour today, but told him I'd call 
him again later in the day to let him know about tomorrow... so I left for a minute to call 
Basil and tell him I had decided to go off on my own tomorrow as well (not to ask for a 
refund, but just to let him know not to bother waiting for me in the morning).
	After the meal (£4/US$6) and a scoop of ice-cream for desert (40p/60c) I left the 
group to climb Jacob's Ladder at night — but I soon returned after seeing that the lights 
were off tonight: apparently the staircase is lit only when the RMS (or similar ship) is in port, 
and now that the RMS had left to go onto Ascension, the ladder was dark.  Not particularly 
wanting my first climb up the ladder to be in the dark, I decided to wait and see if it would 
be lit when the RMS returned once more in a few days.
	Back with the group, I talked and chatted with everyone between writing notes in my 
journal until about 10:15pm.  Ann (a very strong, eccentric lady) scolded me for not eating 
my string beans, and continued to press her point about why she was so angry before... but 
in the end, she can be quite funny and friendly.  Soon, the son of an old friend of Morris & 
Pat's joined us (he was just a young child when the two last saw him), telling us that while 
some homes on the island can cost as much as £80,000/US$120,000, most are in the 
£20,000-£60,000 (US$30,000-US$90,000) range, commenting that Half Tree Hollow is 
popular as a "starter" area, as the homes there aren't quite as expensive as some other 
places.  Shortly after 10:15pm, I returned back up to Half Tree Hollow with Kevin and Cel, 
where I finished my journal and went to sleep.
	Misc. info: one of the shops in Jamestown is a "catalog shop" filled with nothing but 
dozens of different British catalogs, where local islanders can browse them, select an item, 
and the shop will take care of the ordering.

Jan. 9: St. Helena [Radio St. Helena / Diana's Peak / Deadwood Plain]
	Due to the rooster waking me up the past few mornings, I actually woke up today out 
of habit at 2:56am — just minutes before the rooster began his daily noisemaking.  However 
I discovered that the earplugs from the RMS' engine room tour actually worked somewhat in 
blocking the noise (though not completely), and decided to give them a try tonight.
	Having had almost no sleep last night, I just sat in bed for a few hours until finally 
deciding to get up.  Once up though, I saw that Joy had already left for work, leaving the 
following note on the table:
	  Larry—Good morning!  (1) Please go into Jamestown Spar this morning
	  and ask for Marilyn Benjamin — something about the name on your
	  credit card not coming out clearly.  (2) Phone 4669, ask for Tony Leo.
	  He wants to interview you for Radio St. Helena.  (3) Phone Dougie
	  Bennett on 2470... something about meeting the Young Musicians.  If
	  in any doubt, phone me on 2500.  Okay!  See you later (the packed
	  lunch is yours).
	Amazing.  Here I had just arrived a few days ago, and already I needed to phone up 
people I hadn't even met yet!  But that's what I liked about St. Helena — and next to the 
note was a packed lunch, complete with a Schweppes Bitter Lemon Soda for me.  Though 
my original plans were to have an early start heading off for Diana's Peak, I decided to pick 
up the phone and call the people on the list first.
	The lady I was supposed to speak with at the Spar wasn't in yet, but apparently the 
name on my credit card hadn't come out on the charge slip, so I'd need to drop by later and 
have them make another imprint of the card.  Telling them I'd drop by some point before 
closing, I then called up Radio St. Helena.
	When I first called the station Tony was in the middle of his show, and could talk 
only for a minute... he had heard I was on the island, and wanted to know if I wouldn't mind 
coming down to the station for an interview and mini violin concert on the air.  A bit 
apprehensive (as I hadn't practiced in quite a while), I nonetheless agreed, telling him I'd 
leave the house in 20 minutes, and asked for directions to the station.  Putting down the 
phone, I quickly took out the violin and began to flip through some of the music I had 
brought with me, searching for some nice, short pieces I could play on the radio — then 
proceeded to run through them once or twice to refresh my memory (the rooster started 
going off again at the sound, but my reaction was "you don't like the violin?  Too bad!")
	After not even 20 minutes, I piled everything I'd need for the day into the car and 
headed off towards the radio station, located inland from Half Tree Hollow (at least I didn't 
have to start the day by taking Ladder Hill Road again)... with it cloudy and misting, maybe 
it was better to start the day indoors at the station.
	Walking into Radio St. Helena, I met Joy Lawrence (one of the station's on-air 
personalities), and one of the first things out of her mouth upon meeting me was "I heard 
you played on South Park!" (news definitely travels on St. Helena).  I ribbed her back a bit 
though when I mentioned that I had heard her on the air quite some time ago... she seemed 
puzzled, and asked how long I'd been here on the island — but then laughed as I explained 
that I heard her on the homemade CD the station released containing clips of the yearly 
shortwave broadcasts they used to do...
	 Radio St. Helena is the island's only station, and for quite a few years (until 1999), 
they used to do a special yearly broadcast relayed on shortwave as well.  DXers from around 
the world would try to pick up the signal, sending in reception reports, postcards, and 
greetings from their home countries... a shortwave listener myself, I was never able to pick 
up the station as I had only small hand-held radios incapable of receiving the weak signal — 
but a few years ago, a home-made CD containing clips of the various broadcasts was made 
available, and Joy Lawrence was one of the hosts heard on the CD.  In 1999 the shortwave 
broadcasts stopped, as they used Cable & Wireless' old transmitter (C&W would pick up the 
station locally, then use their transmitter to re-broadcast the signal onto the shortwave 
spectrum).  When C&W no longer needed the transmitter, they donated it to the station — 
but with Radio St. Helena's meager budget, the station didn't have the resources to put up a 
tower or complete the necessary work, so the yearly shortwave broadcasts are (at least for 
now) a thing of the past.  Joy mentioned they've toyed with the idea of having a live internet 
broadcast, but it just wouldn't be the same.
	While Tony was on the air, Joy showed me around the station for a bit... the walls 
and windows of Radio St. Helena are plastered with postcards and letters from people 
around the world who heard the shortwave broadcasts, and standing side-by-side next to 
each other are the station's two American-made transmitters (one on standby in case the 
other breaks down).  The walls of the main hallway are lined with endless racks of old LPs, 
some cassettes and CDs, and even a few MiniDiscs... many of the LPs are quite old, and one 
large collection was a set of LPs donated by Radio Sweden (featuring Swedish artists, of 
	 The station was built in 1967, and has an extensive archive room with recordings of 
old broadcasts (mostly from 1973 on, though a few 1960s recordings exist) — Tony later told 
me they were currently in the process of copying the archival recordings onto the MiniDisc 
format (originally they were to use CD-Rs, but in the end, decided on MDs).  The range of the 
current transmitter is about 300 miles (visiting yachts have reported picking up the station 
that far out) — though I've heard locals joke that it's hard enough hearing the station 
everywhere on St. Helena itself.  With 1,000 watts of power, the station broadcasts on 
1548khz AM/MW (St. Helena uses a 9khz step-rate increment instead of 10khz — not that it 
matters though, as Radio St. Helena is the island's only station!)  Their yearly budget is only 
£30,000/US$45,000 — and from that must come the salaries of six full-time staff, power, 
upkeep, and other operating expenses (when later noticing a collection of CD radio plays 
produced by the BBC, Tony told me how expensive they were to buy).  The station re-
broadcasts the BBC at certain times of the day, and when I asked how they get their feed, I 
was shown a small desktop Yaesu receiver.  Tony commented that reception can often be 
pretty lousy, and they've been bugging the BBC for years to provide a satellite dish in order 
to receive them properly.  He mentioned that a colleage at a Bulgarian radio station was 
given one years ago, but only recently did the BBC finally agree to provide one to St. Helena 
(it would be arriving soon, and a few months later in April, the front-page story of the St. 
Helena News was the successful installation of the new BBC dish).
	During a quick break, Tony introduced himself and asked if I would mind doing the 
interview live (I didn't) — but by the time Joy's tour of the station was finished, there was 
only about 5 minutes of Tony's show left... so we instead decided to do it to live-to-tape.
	When Tony was finished behind the mic, he came out of the studio to talk with me for 
a bit.  A genuinely friendly guy with a great radio personality, he's pretty much the voice of 
the island (along with Joy), and has been at the station for over 20 years.
	While taking out the violin to show Tony, I swung the bow around and watched as it 
slipped out of my hand and fell to the floor, breaking right in front of us.  I couldn't believe 
it.  I had kept this violin and bow for a few years specifically for the purpose of bringing it to 
St. Helena, and had managed to transport it through Malaysia, Cape Town, and the RMS — 
and right here at the local radio station just before I was going to play it for an interview, I 
dropped the bow.  Being a student violin, the bow was plastic, and it shattered right at the 
tip.  Tony went to fetch some super-glue, and after carefully gluing it together, set it down to 
dry as we went into the studio to start the first part of the interview.
	The studio itself is a decent size and has all the necessary equipment, including 
mixing boards, turntables, reel-to-reel, CD, and cassette decks, and of course a mic.  Tony 
sat behind the desk, and I took a seat in front of him.  It was quite cold inside the studio, so 
I switched off the air-con unit (made by Defy — a brand found in South Africa) before 
beginning.  Before switching on the recorder, Tony started to give me a brief outline of what 
he might ask, but I told him just to go ahead and ask anything he wished — and with that, 
we started the interview.  About 20 minutes long, we covered everything from why I wanted 
to visit St. Helena in the first place to how I managed to get here — as well as plenty of 
questions about my job, from how many hours a day I used to practice when I was a kid to 
what it's like recording a film soundtrack.  At one point, Tony mentioned I had brought a 
violin with me to leave on the island, and asked if I'd play a few tunes on the air.  Saying I 
would, we stopped the tape to walk out and see if the super-glue had dried and held... 
indeed it had, though when I put the bow back together, the hair bunched up instead of 
lying flat.  Figuring it was because the tip had been reset slightly askew, I told Tony it would 
work, but that the sound would be diminished and not as even.
	Back in the studio we continued with the interview, as Tony asked me what pieces I'd 
be playing.  I had selected two: the Romance of the Wieniawski Violin Concerto #2, and the 
short, fast Giga from the Bach Unaccompanied E-major Partita.  Not having a music stand, 
Tony found a case, opened it up, and used tack gum to stick my xerox copies onto it.  
Picking up the violin, I played both pieces without stopping or editing... the Wieniawski was 
a little long (I told Tony he could edit it if he wanted to — which he did for broadcast), but I 
was a little angry at myself for the tone being so thin due to the problem with the bow.  
Afterwards, Tony had more questions and we continued with the interview, but when it was 
all done I took another look at the bow and managed to untangle the hair most of the way.  
Asking Tony if I could re-record at least the Bach with the bow now in better shape, he let 
me — and with the hair flatter (though still not normal), the sound was much better (I told 
him to use this second take instead of the first).
	When the interview was finished, Tony said he'd mix it that afternoon and get a copy 
of it to me — then took me around the station to introduce me to some of the staff.  Up on 
the wall I saw a sign listing station merchandise for sale, and I wound up buying a Radio St. 
Helena T-shirt (with only S or XL available I bought the S), a pin, and a bumper sticker.  
Tony then threw in a second bumper sticker for free ("put one on your car at home!" he 
smiled), as well as a set of coasters and some buttons.  I had a great time at the station, and 
wouldn't have traded the morning for anything.
	From Radio St. Helena I started my drive out towards Diana's Peak.  The weather was 
cloudy (as it had been all week — "strange weather" Tony had said, as it's usually sunny 
this time of year) — but at least it wasn't overly hot.
	Diana's Peak National Park contains the highest point on the island (reached via a 
short, medium, or long path)... and finding the spot where the three different trails begin, I 
parked the car off the side of the road. About three years before, I ordered a map of Diana's 
Peak showing the routes and approximate time of each trail (the map is also available on the 
island)... however I became quite confused during the course of my walk, as the map makes 
it appear that "Cabbage Tree Road" is the road you drive in on (it's not — it's the long 
FOOTPATH you walk down before reaching the point where the trails actually start).  
Because I thought the footpath was actually the start of the trail, my idea of where I was on 
the map was totally wrong, and I wound up getting completely lost.  Along the way are 
occasional wooden posts with arrows in three colors (red is for the shorter trail, black/green 
for the middle one, and yellow for the longest), but they're not everywhere, and it's easy to 
become confused if you don't know exactly where you are.
	After walking for 45 minutes, I came to Cuckold's Point — which is actually a bit 
higher than Diana's Peak, and the true highest point on St. Helena (it has the tall pine tree 
which can be seen from much of the island — as well as a fine view if the weather isn't 
misting as it was today).  After taking some pictures I walked down to continue along the 
same path trying to find Diana's Peak — but after a while, I reached a gate where the trail 
seemed to end.  Puzzled, I returned to the base of the Cuckold's Point stairs, climbing up to 
the lookout once more — though this time, I decided to walk down the other side.  I could 
hear voices in the distance, so I yelled out asking if Diana's Peak was nearby (during the 
radio interview with Tony, he joked that if I got lost in this weather at Diana's Peak, I should 
just take out my violin and start playing).  The voices responded by telling me (in a strong 
St. Helenan accent) to keep going — and in a few minutes, I met a group of four Saints 
working in the area to clear away some of the overgrown flax with machetes (though they 
were all resting).  They pointed out Diana's Peak just a bit ahead, and after getting my 
directions straightened out, I went on my way.
	Soon I was at Diana's Peak: at the top is a box on a post, inside of which is an ink 
pad, a stamp, a notebook, and a pen.  The stamp (which you can place on a postcard or 
piece of paper) reads "Diana's Peak, Highest Point on St. Helena, South Atlantic Ocean, 
823m/2,700ft" — though again, Cuckold's Point is actually slightly higher.  Opening the 
notebook, I read the names and comments of other visitors who had come to the area 
(including a few from Japan) before leaving my own.  Looking down at my Nikes, I noticed 
they were soaked with all the wet grass in the area.
	The fellows earlier had pointed out the way to continue in the same direction, but 
with the misty weather, I decided to just return the way I came.  Passing the workers again 
(they were having lunch now), I thanked them for their help and headed back to the car — 
and it was only then that I realized the confusion with the map.  Still, the walk was 
definitely worth doing, even with all the clouds and mist around.
	Back at the car, I ate Joy's sandwich and a small cereal box while trying to pick up 
Radio St. Helena on my portable Sangean (as the car had no working radio of its own).  The 
sun was beginning to come out now, and the weather was getting warmer.
	After lunch I continued driving, making my way through Stitche's Ridge, the 
Dungeon, Hutt's Gate (where a now-closed store was for sale), and Longwood.  From 
Longwood, I drove north to Deadwood Plain, where I was ready to drive onto the dry grassy 
hillside until I ran into Basil George and his tour arriving at the same time.  Surprising 
James, the German couple, and the other RMS passengers on the tour, I walked up to the 
Nissan kombi to say hello — at which point Basil invited me to join them for a while.
	There was a bird expert tagging along with the group to help point out the wirebird to 
everyone (a bird found only on St. Helena)... while the small grey and white bird is capable of 
flight, it usually moves by running quickly along the ground, and tends to be found in areas 
with lots of dry grass (such as Deadwood Plain or the Longwood Golf Course).  As I had no 
binoculars (only a 210mm lens on my camera), I couldn't see the birds as the expert pointed 
them out until someone lent me their pair — but with the aid of binoculars, I could watch 
some of the small birds scurry along the ground off in the distance.  There's only an 
estimated 370 wirebirds left in the world, all living on St. Helena.
	Climbing into the van with the rest of the group, we then drove up into the hills (as I 
was originally going to do in my rented Ford).  Along the way, we passed the three wind 
turbines recently erected to help supply the island with electricity...
	Deadwood Plain was once one of the two areas considered for a possible future 
airport, but that's no longer the case now due to the presense of these three new turbines.  
Installed less than a year ago in this windy area, the three turbines supply 11% of the 
island's electricity needs (though Basil commented that the price of electricity hasn't gone 
down because of them).  Later on the RMS, I asked the Governor about the possibility of 
putting up a few more... he was in favor of it, though he wanted to wait a few years first to 
see how these held up over time (a few days ago on the Charabanc tour the turbines weren't 
running, though today they were going at full speed).
	In front of us was Flagstaff Hill, and as the van stopped at the base, a group of us 
decided to climb to the top with Basil while others stayed behind to look for more wirebirds.  
The walk up doesn't take too long, and from the top there are some spectacular views of the 
island and the coastline.  Looking at the barren, colorful volcanic hills nearby, Basil pointed 
out the route the lava followed centuries ago, and off in the distance to the other side was 
Half Tree Hollow.
	After looking at the incredible views (this is one of the nicest hikes on the island — 
don't miss it) we headed back down, with Basil answering my questions along the way... 
when I asked about the island's water supply, Basil said it now comes from ground springs, 
with some chlorine added (though years ago there was a desalinization plant where Rupert's 
Bay is now)... he mentioned that houses start at £20,000/US$30,000 but that the land itself 
is relatively cheap (commenting that he managed to buy some land for his son at 
£750/US$1,125 a while back, and it wouldn't cost much more now — the major cost is for 
the structure, not the land)... though he has asbestos in his house, he doesn't worry about it 
even though he knows everyone says it's dangerous... joking, he asked me and the German 
couple how he would know when St. Helena joined the 1st (or even 2nd) world — the 
German couple replied with answers such as traffic and crime, but my answer was simply 
"when phone numbers are more than 4 digits long"... though he was joking about St. Helena 
being in the 3rd world, he did stress that it's a different style of life here, and things such as 
asbestos dangers just don't bother people.
	At the bottom, the tour group decided to spend more time birdwatching, so instead of 
waiting for a lift back to my car, I decided just to walk the distance on foot.  From the point 
where the van was parked the car didn't look that far away — but it was mis-leading, for it 
was actually quite a long walk (though throughly enjoyable).  Along the dirt road, I walked 
right past the three turbines (hearing the "whoosh" sound up close as I stood right 
underneath them), and there were plenty of cows out relaxing in the dry pasture.
	Back at the car, I stopped for petrol at the Longwood Solomon's, where an employee 
pumps it for you on the honor system (before you've gone inside to pay for it).  Telling the 
employee how much you want, you then go inside the store to pay the cashier (who writes 
your name and the amount of petrol purchased in a log book, before giving you a receipt to 
show the employee outside).  Inside the store I also bought two small orange Club bars, and 
noticed a sign on the front door advertising a low price on out-of-date flour, mentioning that 
it would be good for use in cooking, though results may be slightly different due to it being 
out of date.
	I next drove past the Longwood Golf Course out to Horse Point at the end of the road.  
Here on the left is the large island garbage dump, with the new Millennium Forest on the 
right (located at the site of the old forest, which had been cut down over the years).  For £1 
you can have a tree planted with your name on it here, and there were hundreds of small 
saplings in the area, all propped up by wooden sticks with dates and names written on 
them.  There's a wooden gate and small covered structure at the entrance, though it 
currently seems somewhat out of place, as right now the "forest" is nothing but tiny 
saplings.  Still, in a few decades this should become quite a nice place, and help to balance 
out the island's trash pile on the other side.
	Driving back from the Millennium Forest, I stopped along the way to call home from a 
phone booth placed right in front of someone's house.  When finished, I continued driving 
back towards Jamestown, passing through Seaview (one of the more expensive areas on the 
island) before opting to go down the hillside opposite Ladder Hill for a change.  This other 
road was even worse than Ladder Hill due to the curves, blind hilltops, and roadwork that 
had been going on here (with it now late afternoon, the workers were gone and the road had 
re-opened until tomorrow, but there was plenty of loose gravel on the road and signs 
warning drivers to "Look Out For Loose Grit").
	Back in Jamestown at 4:55pm, I noticed the souvenir shop by the archway was still 
closed (this shop had the St. Helena sweatshirts I wanted to buy hanging in the window, but 
never seemed to be open).  Deciding to visit the Spar to get the credit card problem fixed, I 
ran into Valerie Joshua on the street (a lady who often organizes walks on the island).  
Asking her about the possibility of a walk tomorrow, she said one might be organized with 
someone else (as she'd have to work), but it wound up not happening (probably just as well 
though, as I was constantly busy).
	Walking into the Spar, I gave them my credit card to make another imprint of (with 
credit cards being new on the island — and only being used by visitors, some of the cashiers 
didn't quite know the proper way to handle them).  I then bought a tart (the Spar has a fresh 
bakery section by the front), a cupcake, some more small Kellogs cereals, and some club 
bars, putting everything on Visa once more.
	Outside, I ran into Pat (the South African born on St. Helena)... with his relatives 
around him, he showed me where he once lived (in a house right at the start of town), as 
well as where an old swimming pond used to be.
	Thinking about the pond, I realized it was still early enough to have a dip in the local 
swimming pool, as today I had come prepared and brought my swim trunks with me.  One 
end of the pool is shallow for the kids, but there's a diving board at the deep end, and the 
pool's long length makes it perfect for swimming laps.  Going in from about 5:15pm-5:45pm, 
I enjoyed the large, beautiful pool with only one or two other people around (including 
Howard, who showed up after a bit), but changing back in the men's room afterwards, I did 
something stupid: I dropped the daypack with my camera in it, and damaged the lens.  
Though the glass itself didn't shatter (the filter did), the lens became mis-aligned, and would 
cause a lot of headaches for me in the coming days.  Borrowing the broom next to the pay 
window, I swept up the filter glass and walked back to Main street.
	With it being about 6:00pm, I walked into the library to find a quiet spot to start my 
journal for the day (so I wouldn't have to write it all tonight) — but the library closes at 
6:30pm, so I was soon forced to continue it on the benches outside the library (under the 
trees with the noisy birds).
	At 7:00pm I drove back up to Half Tree Hollow for dinner with Cel and Kevin (delayed 
from yesterday).  James was there as well, and it was nice to be able to sit back, talk, and 
enjoy a leisurely dinner.  The Flaggs (who live in the other half of the structure) had given 
Cel some fresh makrel they recently caught, so a delicious dinner was made with it tonight.  
Patsy Flagg is actually Tony Leo's brother (not the same Patsy whom I rented the car from), 
and while Cel was cooking, Patsy came in to say that my interview was on the radio.  
Turning it on, we caught the last half of it, along with the violin pieces (it was the first time 
any of the group had heard me on the violin — though Tony had indeed edited the 
Wieniawski due to its length).  Listening to myself being interviewed seemed strange, but 
everyone got a kick out of it and said I sounded great.
	Tonight there was to be a total lunar eclipse, so throughout the evening we kept 
peeking outside, but the sky was filled with clouds.  Watching the cricket game on South 
African TV, Kevin pointed out the occasional split-screen image the station had of the 
eclipse, but we all wanted to see it for ourselves.  A bit later Patsy came by to tell us the 
moon was now somewhat visible — so we all went out to the backyard to have a look.  As 
Patsy turned out the lights we all sat down... and indeed the clouds would occasionally 
pass, giving us a brief glimpse of the eclipsed moon.  A few minutes later Patsy's grandkids 
came by to look as well (as Half Tree Hollow would normally be a prime viewing area), and 
soon there were a lot of eyes looking up at the sky (even the dog was staring up).
	Returning back inside for dinner and ice-cream, the four of us enjoyed a nice meal 
and some interesting conversation.  Kevin and Cel had spent part of the day talking to Mr. 
Thorpe (of Thorpe's stores), and are now more serious than ever about moving here to start a 
farm/vinyard.  Though they would return back to South Africa on the RMS in a few days, 
two years from now they might be here for good.
	After a while we called it a night, and I drove the short distance back to Larry & 
Joy's.  When I walked in, Joy (watching Jerry Springer on TV) told me that Dougie Bennett 
had called... he had arranged a time for me to meet some of the young musicians and 
present the violin to them.  The last thing I wanted was to make a big fuss about the violin, 
but it was what Eric and Dougie had arranged, so who was I to say no?  I'd be presenting 
the violin this Thursday night at 7:30pm at the Baptist Chapel in town (when there'd be a 
meeting elsewhere discussing the various options for the RMS schedule during the island's 
500th anniversary in May, 2002).
	After taking a shower I relaxed in my room, catching up on my journal for a bit and 
turning on the radio, as it was still early enough to hear the end of the daily broadcast: at 
10:00pm, a repeat of the 8:00pm news bulletin is aired, followed by the advertisements and 
announcements, and finally a religious sermon before going off the air.
	Among the stories reported on in today's news bulletin: for the week of Jan. 2-8, 
police received 22 reports (down from 29 the previous week)... for the last 5 weeks the sea 
has been quite rough in James Bay, preventing passengers aboard the QE2 from going 
ashore when the vessel visited in early December (causing a loss of tourist revenue), and 
forcing fishermen to use the landing steps in Jamestown rather than Rupert's Jetty (the 
usual spot for fish and petrol), though conditions are slowly returning to normal... a man 
was arrested and released on bail for allegedly stealing a water tap... a driver involved in a 
minor traffic accident was given a verbal warning... the various calls of the fire department 
were given... the RMS arrived at Ascension at 00:15am and departed at 12:30pm today, with 
arrival at St. Helena estimated to be at noon on Thursday, embarkation at 10:00am on 
Friday, and sailing at noon on Friday... the lady with cancer (who was on the RMS in order 
to spend her last days on St. Helena) died Monday, with the funeral being set for tomorrow... 
the winner of the post office raffle draw for a Barney doll was announced... because of the 
Governor's Cup race, a total of 25 yachts visited the island in December, with 180 total for 
all of 2000, including 55 from South Africa, 38 from Britain, and even a few from America... 
a large white ship was seen off St. Helena — radio contact was attempted, though 
unsuccessful... and finally, the lights and flags out for Christmas were taken down around 
town today.
	After the news, the announcements and advertisements followed (all read by the 
station announcer... there are no snappy jingles on St. Helena): allotments from Falklands 
will be paid after 11:00am on Thursday... from tomorrow, Brown's Video will close from 
1:30pm on Wednesdays... mail to Cape Town will close at 3:00pm Thursday from the 
Jamestown post office, and 12:00pm noon from the sub-offices... employment in the UK 
with AC Plastic Industries is available, see the notice board in the Employment Office for 
details... Ascension needs a school bus driver/handyman (single and unaccompanied) — the 
pay is £3,970/US$5,955 per year with accomodation and board provided... at the Castle, an 
assistant is needed with good education and a good sense of humor... Solomon's Half Tree 
Hollow Spar needs a hardware assistant and petrol person... the St. Helena Fire Service is 
looking to fill a full-time position in Jamestown at £63.75/US$95.63 per week, uniform 
provided... there will be a skittles match Thursday of Rock Club vs. Ascension, followed by a 
disco... tender offers/bids are being accepted for 6 ton tipper trucks and 3 ton flatbed trucks 
— you can view them at Bradley's Garage... for sale: Ford Escort 1600cc convertable car, 
excellent condition, insured through August 2000, 4 new tires, £2,500/US$3,750 or next 
offer, call Leslie Henry at 4599 (note: as is typical, when a car is advertised for sale, the year 
is never given... on St. Helena, the condition of the car is much more important than its 
year!)... "Building a house?  Shop 'Queen Mary!'  Everything you need for building a home.  
Price examples are as follows: 50mm waste pipes £4.60/US$6.90..."
	The broadcast ends with an epilogue presented by a minister at around 10:15pm 
before the station goes off the air.

Jan. 10: St. Helena [Prince Andrew / Jamestown / Radio / Lonely Cottage]
	During the night I used the earplugs from the RMS' engine room tour to help against 
the rooster, but I still woke up at 3:00am (a half-hour before the rooster began its daily 
noise) out of habit.  Lying in bed until 6:20am, I finally decided to get an early start, and left 
the house at 6:50am to drive out to Prince Andrew School.
	The only high school on the island, Prince Andrew is located outside of Jamestown (a 
bit past the Briars), and all kids aged 11-18 on St. Helena are bussed there.  Situated down 
in a valley, the road to get there has some nasty hairpin curves, and I can't imagine how the 
island's school buses manage the road.
	Under cloudy and misting skies I arrived at the school expecting it to be deserted, but 
found a few groundskeepers there working.  Asking if I could look around, they said no 
problem, so I checked the place out — first by myself, then with one of the groundskeepers 
volunteering to show me the insides of some of the classrooms.
	The school is comprised of four main buildings attached to each other, and can 
accomodate about 365 students (the school term would begin again on Tuesday).  Looking 
in from the outside, the classrooms seemed quite large and modern, and included rooms for 
pottery, art, homecraft (3 rooms), science, shop, music, and just about anything else you 
could think of — including a room labelled "Deputy Head—Pastoral" (something which 
would never be allowed in US public schools).  There's a large exercise area, a gym which 
doubles as a multi-purpose room, two large computer labs filled with rows of computers 
hooked to the internet, and many other rooms and offices.  One area outside the classrooms 
had some missing floor tiles, but there was a sign posted which warned students about 
them, as well as another sign asking kids to keep to the left when walking.  Uniforms are 
worn in class, but there was a poster mentioning a recent fashion show held at the school.
	Passing the Nautical Studies room (a subject which no doubt comes in handy living 
on an island), I reached the music room and had a peek inside.  Up on the wall was the 
schedule: Monday-winds, Tuesday-brass, Wednesday-strings, Thursday-chorus, Friday-pop 
group — and the music terminology posted up throughout the room was of course British 
	On a wall out in the hallway was a picture of a group of British Royal Marines with a 
local Saint circled: "Jamestown Boy Makes Front Page News..." — as well as another nearby 
poster reading "Army: Be The Best."
	Meeting up with the groundskeeper near the gym/multi-purpose room (where not 
only sports are played but productions are put on), he told me that as this is the only high 
school on the island, the students are divided up into four "houses" (teams) to compete 
against each other in sports.  From the gym he then took me around the other buildings 
again, opening up any classroom I wanted to have a look into and telling me a bit about the 
school system on the island: school here is compulsory to age 15, and before Prince Andrew 
was built, there was no schooling for kids older than 15 — but now kids can continue to age 
18 (originally the school handled kids aged 12-18, but that's now been changed to 11-18, 
with "first school" handling ages 5-7, "second school" handling ages 7-11, and Prince 
Andrew handling ages 11-18).  After spending some time looking inside the various 
classrooms (including a nice, well-stocked library), I went back outside, where I talked to the 
groundskeeper a bit more before thanking him for showing me around.  From the large 
grassy field in front of the school you can see High Knoll Fort nearby, so that's where I 
decided to go next...
	Driving up the hill to High Knoll Fort, I soon reached the top.  While nothing special 
(it's basically an old, deserted fort), there are some nice views from here — though it was 
quite windy each time I peered through the openings of the fort wall to take a picture.  It was 
also here this morning when I realized that my camera lens was indeed broken... the 
manual-focus lens would no longer focus sharply at most ranges unless it was at full-wide 
or full-zoom: when most of the frame seemed focused, the focus circle in the center wasn't 
aligned properly — and if it was, then the bulk of the frame seemed blurry.  Damn.  After 
taking a few pictures as best I could with the Canon, I took one with the little Kodak 
disposable bought on board the RMS before going back to the car for shelter from the wind 
and drizzle.  In the car, I tried to see if I could somehow fix the lens, but it was useless... 
there was nothing I could do.  The best I could manage was jiggling the lens a bit to make it 
slightly clearer — but there was definitely something wrong, and with it being an old 
manual-focus Canon FD-mount lens, I knew it would be next to impossible to find a 
replacement in this part of the world (and I'd be going to Tristan da Cunha next!)
	From the Fort I continued driving, soon arriving at the Boer Cemetary off to the 
right... leaving the car at the side of the road, I walked through some cow pasture (where a 
friendly farmer greeted me) to arrive at the graveyard.  Here, the remains of many of the 
Boer prisoners exiled on the island are burried, along with their names and a few 
headstones.  Nearby is a chapel as well, but just as I was about to walk to it, I heard the 
sound of a car or truck honking its horn constantly.  Fearing my car might be blocking the 
road (though I thought I left enough room), I turned around to run back through the pasture 
towards the car — only to find no one there (apparently the honking was for something 
else... you're always supposed to toot when going around blind corners, but this had been 
continous honking that had just stopped.  Oh well).
	Deciding to continue on in the car — tooting my own horn (an "A" and a "C" together) 
around the blind curves, I tried to find the road which winds through places such as Stitch's 
Ridge, Green Hill, High Ridge, and Levelwood — but many intersections aren't signed and I 
kept getting lost, soon finding myself in Cason's Forest by mistake.  There, a couple of locals 
backpacking pointed out where I was on the map, and gave me directions for where I wanted 
to go...
	One thing I noticed while on St. Helena was that with only this one exception, no 
local I stopped to ask directions from could show me on the map where they were.  They 
could recite off directions verbally to me, but seemed befuddled anytime I'd ask them to 
point out on the map where we were at that moment.  Perhaps it's because not everyone 
owns a car, or perhaps it's because locals probably drive by rote rather than map, but it was 
almost without fail that no one could show me their present position on a map.
	Once back on the correct road (headed towards Sandy Bay for part of it), I wanted to 
find the turnoff for Teutonic Hall, an old, run-down house that Peter, Kevin, and Cel had 
talked about the last couple of days (Kevin and Cel had considered it as a place to possibly 
move to, but as the house has been declared a historical site, anyone who wants to do 
anything with the building must restore it to its original condition — so the current owner 
has protested by letting it fall apart).  However, I couldn't find the turnoff for the place, and 
when I stopped to ask some men working on the road about it, they had no idea how where 
the turnoff was either, with one commenting that it might just be a footpath.
	Giving up on Teutonic Hall, I continued on towards Longwood, as I wanted next to 
drive out to Prosperous Bay Plain (the site of the proposed airport, as it's one of the few flat 
areas on the island) — however after turning off at Longwood gate, the downhill dirt road 
became rough pretty fast (with stones and washout areas)... I continued down it for a bit, 
but soon decided I'd better not head any further in a small 2x2 Ford Escort.  At the bottom 
there wasn't even enough room to turn around, so I had to back up before finding the room 
to maneuver the Ford (I felt like an old pro on the stickshift by now).  Before turning around 
though, I got out of the car at the bottom to have a look at the area... there was some 
beautiful scenery here, with even a few donkeys in the field (Mike later told me that donkeys 
are actually considered government employees, and are used for jobs in places where people 
won't go).
	Heading back to Jamestown, I knew that the road by Gordon's Post would be closed 
for road repair from 9:00am-2:00pm today (usually 9:00am-3:00pm), so at the signpost I 
had to stop to figure out the proper alternate route back into town.  While stopped, I noticed 
a Land Rover with an SHG license plate (SHG = St. Helena Government), and asked the 
driver for directions.  Saying he was going that way himself, the driver told me just to follow 
him — so I did, trying to keep up with him in my noisy, sputtering little Ford Escort.
	Following the Land Rover I arrived back into Half Tree Hollow in the late morning.  
Wanting to finally walk UP Jacob's Ladder at some point today, I decided to leave the Ford 
there at the top (near the Fort and across from the construction vehicle depot), and got a lift 
down to Jamestown from a local.
	In Jamestown again at about 11:50am, I ran into Pat the shoeman again who 
mentioned he was staying with his cousins in Seaview.  Looking over at the gift shop near 
the arch, I saw it was still closed, so I walked up to Solomon's Shipping Office to change 
some US$ travellers checks into local currency...
	There are two places on St. Helena where you can change US$ or travellers checks 
into pounds: Solomon's Shipping Office, and the bank at the Castle.  I decided to try out 
Solomon's first, and was glad I did... inside there was almost no line, and a very friendly 
lady happily changed my US$ travellers checks into St. Helenan pounds at the decent rate 
of £1=US$1.56 (with her commenting that the rate for travellers checks was slightly better 
than for cash — US$1=£0.64 for travellers checks, or US$1=£0.62 for cash).  They charge a 
1% commission on this, but it was still much better than the horrible £1=US$1.70 + 1% 
commission rate offered by the RMS.  When I asked about the rate, the lady mentioned that 
if I wanted to wait until tomorrow, she could check at the Castle to see if it had changed any 
(as they receive their rates from the Castle) — but I was just asking out of curiosity, and told 
her that the 1.56 rate would be fine, giving her one US$50 travellers check to cash.
	From the Shipping Office, I walked up Main Street for a bit, stopping in first at the St. 
Helena Development Agency.  Inside, I asked an assistant some questions, though she said 
I'd need to talk to the Director for some of the answers.  Asking her then about the airport, 
the assistant told me a bit about the two competing proposals: both are privately-funded, 
with one being from a South African businessman who wants to use smaller aircraft mostly 
just for tourist flights, and the other is from a UK company called Shelco, who wants to 
build a larger airport to handle both tourism and cargo.  Environemtal studies were 
currently being done on the various plans, and when I asked if the UK Government would 
help fund an airport if it removed the need for a new RMS, she didn't know.  Before leaving, I 
picked up a copy of their "Guide To Investing on St. Helena" pamphlet, as well as some other 
	Next, I stopped in nearby C&M's (a locally-owned chain of stores) to have a look 
around.  Noticing a sign mentioning they served takeaways, I discovered the little restaurant 
in back, complete with tables and chairs.  Ordering a cheeseburger (plain is 95p/US$1.43) 
and chocolate cake (25p/38c — both were very good), I had a look inside the shop while the 
food was being prepared, actually buying a few overpriced souvenirs: a red St. Helena cap 
(£4.99/US$7.49), a St. Helena T-shirt (£6.99/US$10.49 — way too expensive for a collarless 
T-shirt), 2 keyrings (60p/90c & 70p/US$1.05), a pen (70p/US$1.05) which later turned out 
to have dried ink inside, and a plastic coaster (£1.56/US$2.34).  Noticing the VISA sign, I 
was going to pay for the souvenirs by credit card until I was told that there was an 
additional 5% surcharge for credit card purchases — so in the end, I just used cash.  When 
the meal was ready I sat down to eat, with two Saints at a neighboring table chatting away.
	After C&M's I decided it was time to climb Jacob's Ladder.  Though partially cloudy, 
it was still quite warm and hot (as well as being mid-day).  Walking to the base of the ladder 
(near the prison and some public toilets), I began the climb up, following the advice of locals 
to swing my legs as I go.  As there are almost 700 steps (699), I decided to climb in spurts of 
70 at a time, resting for a bit after each group.  At 350 steps up, the cement off to the side 
reads "1/2 way, 350 steps"... and coming up behind me was a local man who didn't stop 
once or swing his legs (though I saw most locals swing their legs on the ladder during my 
stay).  Though I climbed in spurts, I still managed to walk up those 699 steps pretty fast 
(stopping occasionally to take a picture or two with the disposable camera), with my time to 
the top being just over 15 minutes.
	As I neared the top, I could suddenly hear the sound of a bugle coming from down 
below — it was the Scouts returning from Scout camp!  Remembering Larry telling me that 
they would walk through the streets of Jamestown, I hurried to get to the top in order to 
drive down and see them.  Reaching the top sweating, I ran to use the payphone next to the 
construction vehicle depot to call Mike up and tell him I'd be a bit late (1:30pm-2:15pm for 
our appointment instead of the planned 1:15pm), then hopped in the car to drive back down 
into Jamestown — only to see no Scouts around.  When I asked in town about it (and later 
Larry at night), I found out that due to there not being enough kids today — as well as 
others needing to get ready for the funeral to take place this afternoon, they instead decided 
to just drive through town in a truck blowing the bugle for a few minutes.  Ah well.  With 
Jamestown now getting quiet (as it was a Wednesday afternoon and everything closes on 
Wednesday afternoons — and people were also preparing for a 3:00pm funeral today), I 
decided to head off for the radio station.
	The funeral at the large St. James Church in Jamestown was for a local Saint who 
had left the island to undergo cancer treatment... but when it proved ineffective, she 
returned home in order to spend her last few days on St. Helena.  At one time she had been 
the catering officer for the RMS, and had been on the ship with all of us last week returning 
home.  Her son couldn't make the funeral because he was unable to get a flight to Ascension 
in time to meet the RMS (the RMS could only wait 5 hours, and his son needed 10 hours to 
make the connection)... this was yet another example of the hardships endured with one 
way to reach the island.
	On the way to the station I stopped to pick up an older man who motioned for a ride 
to another part of Half Tree Hollow... but when I mentioned I was going to the station, he 
insisted on staying with me to show me the way, even though he'd have to walk back or get 
another lift afterwards.
	Seeing Joy and Tony at the station again, I met Mike as he was getting the studio set 
up (his Classical Hour show is pre-taped for airing on Sunday evenings and the following 
Wednesday afternoons).  Sifting through the LPs on the wall, Mike let me pick the selections 
for the week, though he wanted to start with a bit of Victor Borge, as he had died while Mike 
was on vacation.  The selections I picked were the Mozart Eine Kleine Nachtmuzik, the Ravel 
Tzigane (from the Radio Sweden collection), the Dvorak Cello Concerto with Rostropovich, 
and the Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue.  Before playing each selection, the two of us chatted 
"on air" about things music — everything from what I do for a living to Mike bringing up that 
yes, I had indeed played on the South Park movie.  Off the air while one of the selections 
was playing, Mike told me he had once studied viola, so for the next bit of discussion I made 
sure to include some viola jokes... it was definitely a fun way to spend an hour.  The show 
was recorded onto a reel-to-reel tape, with LPs (and one CD) used to play the selections.  
When finished, Mike said he'd be happy to make a copy of it for me, as Joy chimed in saying 
she'd make sure I received it (sure enough, while back on the RMS someone informed I had 
a package waiting... inside was the tapes containing the interviews with Tony and Mike).  
Before leaving, I talked to Joy and some of the station staff a bit about the nicknames that 
locals have on the island, and was told quite a few of them... one person is known as 
"mackrel"... another (who had problems with his bowels once) is known as "blocked" — and 
after Tony Leo returned from Ascension years ago, he began to be known as "Tony 
	At the station, I told Mike I'd give him a lift home (as he couldn't drive his red Toyota 
MR2 until he started work again to pay for the insurance).  On the way, he started telling me 
about a place I shouldn't miss, and said he'd show it to me if I wanted — so we made a 
detour and drove out to the end of the road where "Distant Cottage" and "Ball Alley" were.  
Mike mentioned the small cottage was owned by Solomon's, and though there was a "no 
trespassing" sign, we both jumped the fence to continue on past the property.  No one was 
home, though the small house did appear to be occupied occasionally, as there was a small 
vegetable garden and some goats on the property.  Just beyond the cottage though are some 
spectacular views of Sandy Bay and White Rocks (including some beautiful multi-colored 
rocks), as well as plenty of orange-and-rust colored dirt right in front of us.  Some of the 
island's best views and most interesting scenery can be had from here, and if you visit St. 
Helena, make sure to drive out to this area for a look around.
	While talking in the car on the way back, I mentioned to Mike that I was disappointed 
the souvenir shop by the archway has been constantly closed, as I wanted to buy a St. 
Helena sweatshirt.  Saying "no problem," Mike directed me to the house of another lady just 
north of the Briars who sells the sweatshirts — though the road to get to her house (opposite 
Ladder Hill) is steep, with plenty of blind hilltops and curves.  Parking the car and getting 
out, there were some roosters walking around... my mind suddenly had thoughts of choking 
a few of them until Mike interrupted my train of thought to introduce me to the lady.  When 
Mike introduced me as "Larry", the lady suddenly asked "you're not the one who was just on 
the radio, are you?"  When I answered yes, the lady told me how much she enjoyed hearing 
me on the radio last night (to which Mike added that we had just pre-taped the next 
Classical Hour show, and I'd be on the air again with him this Sunday).  The lady had the 
sweatshirts in both M and L (I opted for the M), but we tried without luck to find one of her 
"Where On Earth Is St. Helena" T-shirts in M.  She said she'd be getting some in soon — 
probably with the next RMS sailing — but of course that wouldn't be of any help to me.  
Still, the grey sweatshirt was nice (£15/US$22.50), and after talking for a while, we left to 
continue on our way.
	As I hadn't had a chance to see Rupert's Bay yet, Mike said he'd show it to me as 
well.  The area (to the left of Jamestown looking from the water) is where both the petrol 
supplies for the island are offloaded as well as the location of the Argos fish factory where 
the fish are frozen and stored for the next departing ship.  Right by the water is a short 
landing which people often jump off of to go swimming, and the area has two BBQ pits (with 
some large boulders hanging precariously above on the hillside).  The area in the valley 
leading up to Rupert's has some homes as well as the newest church on the island: an 
Anglican church which looks nothing like a church.  Even though Rupert's is just down the 
coast from Jamestown, there's no coastal road connecting the two — instead, you must 
drive inland, and go up and down the hill.
	After walking around the landing area for a bit, we hopped back in the car and 
continued to drive along some more crazy St. Helena roads back to Pat Musk's place (where 
Mike was staying), taking the Gordon's Post road now that construction was finished for the 
day (there was still plenty of loose gravel around).  Though the Gordon's Post road was 
usually being closed from 9:00am-3:00pm for repair, I heard that when Ladder Hill Road 
was being widened it had to be closed completely (and as one of only two main roads out of 
Jamestown, must have caused considerable inconvenience).
	Dropping Mike off at Pat Musk's place, I stopped the car for a minute and began to 
hear the sound of water boiling... the car was overheating!  Mike opened the hood to let the 
boiling water out and noticed there was hardly any left (it's a good thing it overheaded here 
and not in the middle of the road somewhere).  It took two large containers of water to fill 
up, and as I was running low on petrol also, he emptied the entire 5 litres of petrol from his 
spare gas can into the tank, even though I told him I just needed a bit... very nice (a few 
days later on the ship Peter mentioned he had run out of petrol this afternoon — and with it 
being a Wednesday afternoon, there was no place open to get more).
	While telling Mike about my camera problem earlier, he suggested I try a camera 
store in Cape Town where he recently bought some supplies himself... so when finished with 
the car, he took me inside to find the receipt with the phone number, showing me a bit of 
the house as well (as an ex-pat teacher, he was given a room to stay in here for free... quite a 
nice house, it was owned by Pat Musk, who runs a shop in Jamestown). From the house, I 
also called up Kevin and Cel (who had invited me to dinner again) to let them know I'd be 
starting on my way soon.
	Leaving Mike (with it almost dark now), it wound up taking quite a while to get to 
Half Tree Hollow, where I finally arrived at 7:20pm. There, Cel had prepared some great 
macaroni and cheese, and the four of us (including James) sat down to eat, talk, and relax 
(Cel and Kevin mentioned they were going to meet with some agriculture and government 
officials tomorrow regarding the possibility of farming on the island).
	At 8:45pm I returned back to Larry & Joy's (I was having extremely long days with 
very little sleep — but I still enjoyed every minute)... when I walked in, Larry was back from 
Scout camp sleeping, but Joy was up, so we talked for a while.  Though it wasn't raining, 
there were occasional strong gusts of wind outside, and lying down in my room a bit later, I 
began to catch up on my journal and think about the day just ending...
	I had done a lot of driving today in misty conditions along wet roads surrounded by 
miles and miles of flax (finally driving home in the dark) — but still, the actual mileage 
covered wasn't that great due to the slow speeds one must travel at.
	While walking around Lonely Cottage, Mike mentioned that the Saints were among 
the most patriotic people (towards Britain) he's ever met, yet the UK has paid them back by 
stripping them of their citizenship (due to a blanket law meant to stem the tide of 
immigration from Hong Kong) and has yet to reinstate it, even though the UK reinstated 
British citizenship for residents of the Falkland Islands because of the war there (I later 
commented to Larry that the surest way for Saints to get their citizenship back is for there 
to be a war on St. Helena).  Mike went on to mention that the UK Goverment doesn't want to 
give any more than £10/US$15 million a year to support St. Helena, yet has been spending 
more than £40 million (US$60 million) a MONTH on their Millennium Dome project — 
something that would soon be torn down.  No wonder the Saints are upset.
	At 10:00pm I turned on Radio St. Helena to hear a repeat broadcast of the 8:00pm 
news bulletin: St. Helena is getting £500,000 less this financial year than last year for 
commercial fishing licenses, with less than 1/4th the number from last year (this is 
important to the island's budget).  Last year there were 48 licenses granted (4 to Japan and 
44 to Taiwan), but this year there were only 12 (2 to Japan, and 10 to Taiwan) — they cost 
£13,000/US$19,500 for Taiwan (for use off of Ascension waters only), and 
£11,000/US$16,500 for Japan (off Ascension or St. Helena), with the agreements differing 
slightly between the two countries.  For both, no fishing is allowed less than 12 miles from 
St. Helena, and though there are 6 more yet-uncompleted licenses pending for Taiwan, the 
amount is still much less than in previous years... there was more RMS news: cabin bags for 
those leaving on the RMS would need to be out by 8:00am on Friday, and there would be 52 
passengers arriving from Ascension, along with 48 bags of mail (there is no real mail 
"delivery" on the island... though I saw some red Royal Mail trucks, they basically supply the 
sub post offices, and most people must go to one of the post offices to collect their mail — 
only if their mail isn't picked up after quite a while is it sometimes delivered apparently)... it 
was reported that the Scout camp which lasted from Jan. 3 - Jan. 10 was finished... 
tomorrow night (at the same time I'd be presenting the violin to the kids) there'd be a 
meeting to discuss proposals for the RMS' schedule during the 500th anniversary of the 
island in May 2002 before finalizing it... the eclipse of the moon last night was mentioned, 
along with the fact that it wasn't visible in most places due to the clouds (with the 
announcer commenting that some people call this bad luck "Napoleon's Curse")...
	After the news it was time for the announcements and advertisements again: an 
optician would be visiting the island for a shot time in February — phone up a local number 
now to make an appointment by Jan. 26... Family Planning Services schedules were 
announced... the Jamestown pool will be open evenings from Jan. 16 (Tuesday and 
Thursday from 7:30pm-9:30pm — adults only — and Wednesday from 7:30pm-9:30pm for 
adults and children)... a pastor on the island is conducting an annonymous questionaire for 
Saints relating to changes on the island over the past 10 years... a charge hand gardener at 
Plantation House is needed... there was a listing of the times of various music groups 
playing at the different discos this upcoming weekend... more cars being advertised for sale 
(with the years never given): a Ford Capri 1600cc insured until July for £1,850/US$2,775 or 
next offer... and finally the broadcast once again ended with a religious epilogue.
	Misc. info: While staying with Larry & Joy, they would usually lock the door when 
going out but always kept the windows open, showing me where the key would be waiting if 
I needed to enter.  Crime is very low on St. Helena, and the island lifestyle reflects that.

Jan. 11: St. Helena [Jamestown / Prison / Young Musicians]
	Though I slept more last night than I had the last few days, I was still up by 
5:00am... and at 6:30am, I began doing some initial packing to see if I'd be able to fit 
everything into my bag now that I had T-shirts and other items to bring back from St. 
	Over a light breakfast (cereal and yoghurt from the Spar) I talked to Joy and Larry for 
a bit... airplanes don't fly over St. Helena much — Joy mentioned that she usually hears one 
flying overhead about twice a week, and will often run outside to see if she can spot it) — 
and Larry added that during the Falklands war, planes were flying overhead all the time... 
there are no earthquakes on St. Helena... while it rains often on the island, Larry said it was 
rare to see lightning or hear thunder.
	Returning to talk of the Falklands war, Larry said that as the RMS of the time was 
appropriated for use in the war, another vessel had to be provided to supply the island with 
cargo — and mail for the island would often be dropped by parachute from a passing plane.  
Now, mail to/from St. Helena goes either through South Africa (via the RMS to Cape Town) 
or through the UK (via the RMS to Ascension, then onto the UK).  When international mail 
arrives on St. Helena, it's generally held for the recipients, and people will wait in queue at 
the post office to collect their mail — though if it hasn't been collected after a few days, it 
will often be delivered.  Inter-island mail gets delivered sometimes as well, though many 
locals also have post office boxes.
	There are no numbers displayed on any of the houses on St. Helena, and with the 
exception of a few major roads, streets rarely have names (let alone signs displaying those 
names) — so if you were trying to find "100 Half Tree Hollow" on your own, you'd be out of 
luck.  Fortunately, there were markers to help me find Larry & Joy's house at the end of 
each day: driving up Ladder Hill Road into Half Tree Hollow, I'd stay on the same road until I 
came to an orange trash bin on a pole — at which point I'd turn right onto a small side-
street.  Then continuing down this unnamed (or at least unmarked) street, I'd turn right at 
the small intersection with the "Give Way" sign — before continuing on and making a right 
onto the property.
	While talking with Larry and Joy, I heard the sound of the fish truck in the 
distance... this morning was its scheduled run to the Half Tree Hollow area, and with the 
"William Tell Overture" blaring from its speaker (just like an ice-cream truck), it slowly 
cruised the streets of Half Tree Hollow as anyone who wanted to purchase fresh St. Helena 
fish came out to meet it. While walking around the area later, I met up with the truck and 
its driver as a local lady was buying some fish... the driver told me there was only the one 
truck, and while today would be his only day in Half Tree Hollow this week, next week he'd 
be coming here twice.  The fish is wrapped in celophane just as you'd find it at the local 
supermarket, with the weight, price-per-pound, and total cost clearly marked (today, there 
was plenty of fresh tuna and wahoo, all caught yesterday).  Local fishermen catch the fish 
and sell it to the co-op, who operate the truck and sell the fish to the public for just a bit 
more money (to cover the cost of running the truck and driving it around the island).
	This morning was cloudy, but still hot and humid.  As I had skipped much of 
Jamestown over the last few days in favor of exploring other parts of the island, I decided to 
set aside most of today to see Jamestown. Leaving the car at the house for the time being, I 
headed for Ladder Hill Fort on foot.  On the way, Eric George's wife Ivy passed me in her car 
and stopped to chat for a bit, telling me they were still trying to find a copy of Eric's book of 
St. Helena songs to give me.  While we chatted, two other cars came up behind Ivy — but 
instead of passing her (even though there was plenty of space to do so), they were content to 
just sit and wait until we were done chatting.  Such is St. Helena life.
	At Ladder Hill Fort, I had a look at the old guns which look out over the sea (now with 
grafitti on them — about the only place on the island I noticed some), as well as the small, 
well-kept building at the top flying the British flag.  Earlier from his porch, Larry had 
pointed out a wall in the Fort compound, telling me it's used for rifle target practice once a 
	At the top of Ladder Hill Road and Jacob's Ladder I noticed some interesting signs: 
for Ladder Hill Road, there was a sign displaying the 15mph speed limit, as well as another 
which indicated "no bicycles" (though I'm sure at least a few kids have tried to go down it on 
bikes through the years).  At the top of Jacob's Ladder was a sign telling a bit of information 
about the staircase: there are 699 steps, each approximately 11 inches high, with a 602ft 
rise from sea level.  The original inclined plane was built by the St. Helena Railroad 
Company in 1829 as a funicular, and was converted to steps in 1871 by the Royal 
	 Going down Jacob's Ladder took exactly 5 minutes this morning, and once at the 
bottom, I noticed the shop by the archway was finally open.  Stepping inside, I discovered 
the shop was quite expensive for souvenirs, but nonetheless bought myself a medium 
"Where On Earth Is St. Helena" T-shirt for £9.50/US$14.25.  I also purchased another St. 
Helena cap (£6.50/US$9.75), as well as some extremely good (and cheap) chocolate peanut 
clusters for 10p/15c each.  While looking inside the shop, some locals came in to buy 
snacks and were chatting about various things... one of them had a cold, and I was trying 
hard not to stand close to him, especially as I had been exerting myself with very little sleep 
over the past week.
	Walking over to the Castle, I met up with Pat & Morris, who told me I needed to have 
my passport stamped at the police station before boarding the RMS tomorrow — preferably 
getting it done sometime today (those staying at the Consulate Hotel were notified about 
this, though no one had told me until now).  Since I was right there, I walked into the 
station to have my passport stamped for exit tomorrow (no charge — with the year now 
correctly changed to 2001), and while inside, I asked how large the police force is on St. 
Helena: there are a total of 32 police island-wide, which includes 12 at the prison as well as 
those in the three smaller stations on the island.
	Outside the police station, I had a look around the other parts of the large, white 
Castle complex (built in 1708 according to the sign): just about all government offices are 
located here, including the Government Printing Office, Cashier, and the Finance Ministry.  
Inside the main building and up an old wooden flight of stairs was the Legislative Council 
room and the Governor's office — though unfortunately, both doors were locked when I tried 
	The island Archives are housed in the Castle as well, so I went in for a look: 
contained inside are original books from as early as 1673 that you can actually hold in your 
hand and examine... I flipped through one labelled "Saint Helena Constitution, Laws, and 
Instructions, 1673-1714" (an old hand-written book with a warning stuck on it indicating it 
had been preserved with mercury chloride, a poisonous substance).  Some of the many 
chapters in this book were: "East Indian Company Laws", "Abridgement of King's Charter", 
"First Commission after Retaking the Islands", "Rules for Settling Land, London, 20th Feb. 
1677", "System of Laws and Constitutions", and "Orders of Ship."  Another book I picked up 
was titled "Letters to England from Goodwin, 1673-1707" — and there were dozens of such 
books, relating everything from island births and deaths to shipping information throughout 
the years.
	Needing to cash one more travellers check, I went next to the Castle bank, only to 
find a line... so I decided to go back to Solomon's Shipping Office instead (as the rate would 
be the same).  At Solomon's, I cashed the US$50 travellers check (at the same rate as the 
other day) and smiled as the cashier greeted the one customer in front of me not by saying 
"hello, sir" but rather "hello, Eric."
	From Solomon's I went to the post office to buy some commemorative stamp sets, 
telephone cards, and a set of new St. Helena coins in a bag — and was disappointed to learn 
that the post office tacks on a 6% surcharge for credit card transactions (I bit the bullet and 
put everything on Visa).
	Next, I used the phone in front of the post office to make some calls to the camera 
shop in Cape Town that Mike had recommended (Shap's Cameraland) to see if they might 
have any new or used lenses that would fit onto my camera.  As a telephone card gets eaten 
up extremely fast on overseas calls, the lady at Shap's said she'd phone me back (even when 
I told her it was overseas) — but after waiting for quite some time, the call was never 
returned.  This meant I had to buy more telephone cards in order to call back — so hoping 
that Cable & Wireless might have cards with different pictures on them, I walked into the 
C&W office across the street — though they only had the same 4 cards everyone else did.  
Asking if I could place a call from the C&W office itself (as in many countries you can place 
calls from the telephone company), I was told they don't offer that service — which meant I 
had to buy more phone cards even though I didn't know how many I'd need.  Noticing some 
C&W merchandise for sale, I bought myself a 100th anniversary 1999 C&W T-shirt 
(£3/US$4.50) on top of the telephone cards... when I asked if I could put the items on Visa, I 
was told there'd be a 5% surcharge — though in the end, the lady charged me only 2.5% (for 
those of you confused about the credit card surcharges, here's how it stood when I was on 
the island: the Spar was the only establishment I found not to asses a surcharge on credit 
cards — a nice thing to know... the Consulate Hotel's surcharge was the highest, at 7% — 
something James wasn't too happy about... the post office was 6%... C&M's was 5%... and 
while I could have sworn the C&W lady told me the surcharge would be 5%, she only 
charged me 2.5%, writing 2.5% on the receipt as well).
	Coming out of Cable & Wireless, I decided to stop in at Brown's Video Rental to 
inquire about the key needed to open the St. Helena Museum, as the museum would be 
closed until Friday, but Cel heard that the lady who keeps the key works at the video shop, 
and sometimes lets people borrow it if the museum is closed.  Asking about the key, I was 
told that because the RMS would be leaving tomorrow, someone had already gone to the 
museum to open it up — so I quickly scooted over there for a look.
	The St. Helena museum contains plenty of items from the island's past, including old 
sea equipment, pictures, bottles and antique telephones (my favorite).  Above the museum in 
the same building are the offices of the St. Helena News... so after looking around 
downstairs, I walked up to give my compliments to the fine job the news staff does both with 
the weekly paper and the website (as each week's paper is placed online for anyone in the 
world to download, at: http://www.news.co.sh).  Knowing that the paper comes out on 
Fridays but that the RMS would be leaving in the morning, I asked what time of day the 
paper is distributed... the young lady there said usually by 10:00am — but that was when 
embarkation was to start for the RMS.  When I asked if it might be possible to buy a copy 
beforehand, she said if they were done in time it'd be ok — I should drop by tomorrow at 
9:30am and she'd try to hold one for me (they don't usually supply the RMS with copies — 
the recent holiday issue available on the outbound voyage was an exception, and I felt that a 
paper covering the week I was on the island would make a great souvenir).
	For lunch today, I went back to C&M's for an egg salad sandwich (40p/60c) and 
another good cheeseburger (for some reason they only charged me 85p/US$1.28 today 
instead of the 95p I was charged yesterday).  In C&M's shop I bought another pen — this 
time asking to test it first, telling the cashier that the ink in the pen I bought yesterday had 
dried.  She offered to refund my money if I brought the pen back, but it was all the way back 
at the house and wasn't worth the hassle.
	After lunch (and with some new phone cards from C&W), I gave Shaps Cameraland 
another call... the lady on the other end told me she had tried to ring me back but received 
only a series of beeps.  At any rate, I was told that they had only a used 35-105mm lens for 
R1,250/US$159.  Still, I had them set it aside for me, also asking them to hold anything 
else close to what I was looking for that might come in, saying I'd be in on the 17th around 
closing time (they're located on Long Street in downtown Cape Town).  Though I hated to do 
it, I also called and left a message on Russell's answering machine telling him what had 
happened, and asking (if he had the time) to phone a few area camera shops to see if he 
might be able to track down a lens for me as well, as I'd only have a few hours in Cape Town 
in which to find and buy a replacement.
	Finished with the calls for now, I went back to Solomon's Souvenir Shop to buy a 
keyring (£3.50/US$5.25), and thought about buying some of the books they had for sale 
(including one on St. Helena cooking) — but in the end, decided against it.
	Having seen much of Jamestown by this point, I considered taking a walk, as 
yesterday Morris mentioned he had walked all the way from Longwood to Jamestown (5 
miles, though all downhill).  I thought I'd give it a try as well, but first I'd have to find a way 
to get to Longwood (as if I drove there, I'd have to find some way to get back to the car later 
on).  Walking up the street, I stopped in at the Consulate Hotel to use the loo in the bar, but 
my mini "Pooh" notebook (which I had been using to jot down notes into) fell out of my shirt 
pocket into the toilet tank!  All wet now, I'd have to dry it out later that evening in order to 
read my notes, but it wouldn't be of much use after tonight (thankfully I had a spare).
	Stopping in at the Tourist Office to say a quick "thank you", I ran into Kevin outside.  
Not wanting to carry a heavy camera around with me on a walk (especially with the lens not 
working right), I asked if I could leave the camera in their car (he replied "sure, it's parked 
by the police station, unlocked... just put it in the boot.")  Walking down to the car, I placed 
my camera, the notebook, and a few other things inside the unlocked vehicle — but by now 
the sun had started to come out (a rarity this week), and with the heat, I was having second 
thoughts about the walk.
	Suddenly the streets of Jamestown seemed to swell with people — the RMS had just 
docked, and the town was instantly full of life... Saints went down to greet friends and 
family, and passengers from Ascension were now walking through the streets as well.  With 
the sudden change of mood in town, I decided to stay in the area and not go for the long 
walk.  Looking up at the sky, even though the sun was out over Jamestown, it appeared 
other areas of the island still had clouds.
	Instead of walking around Longwood, I spent some time walking up and down the 
streets of Jamestown again (though further up), taking pictures with my disposable Kodak 
camera before heading to Ann's Place for ice-cream and soda in the shade.  There I joined 
Peter in chatting with a young reporter for the St. Helena News named Gary, who seemed to 
think the island wouldn't change much even with an airport.  When Peter asked Gary how 
he got started as a reporter, Gary said that while journalism isn't offered in school, he's 
always liked to write... so somehow he just ended up working for the St. Helena News.  He 
commented that there often isn't a lot to cover on the island, and tries to plan what to write 
a week ahead in case nothing happens.  Though the St. Helena News is controlled by a news 
board overseen and funded by the government, it is independent (as its coverage has 
shown), and the weekly paper (available throughout the island) costs only 15p/23c (note: in 
June 2001, the St. Helena News changed its name, and is now known as the St. Helena 
	When Gary left, Peter gave me a few other suggestions on camera shops in Cape 
Town to try — so I bought more telephone cards (from Ann, as they're the same price 
anywhere on the island) and made more calls — only to have no luck at all with any of the 
three new places.
	At this point I suddenly remembered that I hadn't seen the prison yet, and wondered 
if such visits by the general public were allowed.  Walking up to speak to one of the two 
guards on duty there, I was told that I first needed to get permission from the Chief of Police 
across the street — so I walked over to the police station to get my permission.  The Chief 
wasn't around, but the lady behind the desk called someone else who OKed the visit, and in 
turn called the prison to let them know I had received permission.
	Back at the prison I once again met the two guards on duty: Lionel Jonas and 
Raymond Crowie.  Lionel would be my guide through the prison compound, and was 
extremely nice, answering any and all questions I had no matter how trivial.
	There were currently 3 inmates at the prison (all men), and they were quite friendly 
as we walked through the jail.  We first visited the men's side, where the cels open up to a 
general living room area with a computer system and printer (no internet, but games and 
educational software — one of the inmates was playing solitaire on it), TV, VCR, goldfish 
tank, and signs up on the wall stressing a positive attitude.  As well, artwork created by the 
inmates was displayed on the walls, and some of it was quite impressive (when I asked one 
of them if he created any of the art hanging on the walls, he replied that did two of them, 
and pointed them out to me).  Next we went upstairs (where the staff relaxes, works, and 
cooks meals) before going into the female area (now empty — Lionel mentioned it's rare to 
have a female prisoner).  Downstairs was a nice gym, complete with an exercise bike and a 
treadmill (probably the only one in 2,000 miles!)  Passing a few bikes, Lionel mentioned that 
the prisoners buy them to work on, fix them up, then keep or sell them.  There's a buzzer in 
each cel which rings on a switchboard if an inmate needs anything, and there are at least 2 
guards on call 24hrs a day.  Down below where the old cels used to be, the area has been 
converted into a workshop, complete with woodworking tools and plenty of sawdust on the 
ground (Lionel teaches the inmates woodworking, and showed me some of the wood they 
use).  There's also a pig farm out of town where some of the prisoners can work if they have 
permission, but it all depends on your clearance level...
	New prisoners start out at "A" level (where you must stay inside the prison), but 
approximately every 4 months your behavior is reviewed... if you've been good, your status 
can be upgraded to "B"... then "C", and finally "D."  Prisoners with a "C" status are allowed 
to leave the prison for supervised work outside, and those with "D" status can leave for 
unsupervised work — but if you do something bad or stupid, your status can be bumped 
back up to "B" or "A", and all such privileges revoked (if inmates leave the prison to work, 
any money they earn is paid to them by their employer).
	When the tour was finished we returned to the front entrance, where I talked to 
Lionel and Raymond for a bit.  Asking permission, I took their picture (no problem as long as 
it faced the wall and not the inside of the prison — as one of the stipulations of taking the 
tour was no pictures or sketching inside), and though I had the intention of sending it to 
them later, the picture (with my non-flash Kodak disposable) came out way too dark.  When 
Raymond asked my name and what I did, he said "Oh, you're the one on the radio the other 
day... I heard you!  I play the violin too!" (and Lionel plays the harmonica).  Seeing that I had 
been quite curious about the prison and the British penal code, without my even asking 
they then took out a lot of miscellaneous items to show me, from blank inmate booking 
forms to the clips and containers used to store the belongings of overnight prisoners.  Talk 
then turned to other subjects as well, and the three of us chatted for quite a while until it 
was time for me to leave.  Very friendly guys, I felt bad that the picture I took of them hadn't 
turned out, so upon returning home I sent them a postcard of California instead.
	Needing to be back in Half Tree Hollow before 5:00pm in order to put petrol in the car 
(as the Half Tree Hollow Spar closes at 5:00pm), I made a quick stop in at the Jamestown 
Spar to buy a small Spar-brand juice box of 100% orange juice (you can't find that in the 
South African Spars!)  Then it was time to climb Jacob's Ladder again... going up in groups 
of 70 steps, it took me only 14 minutes this afternoon.
	Resting at the top, I realized my climb wasn't over — the hardest thing about 
climbing Jacob's Ladder isn't the climb to the top, but the realization that once you've 
reached the top you then have to continue walking uphill to get to where the houses are 
(and Larry & Joy's place was located right in the middle of Half Tree Hollow).  Continuing on, 
I passed the Flaggs' place on the left where Kevin and Cel were staying, dropping by for 
about 10 seconds to say hello (Kevin was watching cricket).
	Soon I was back at Larry & Joy's, but when I walked in the door Larry told me he had 
put some petrol in for me already, as he had used the car for part of the time (very nice of 
him, and typical island behavior).  Still, not being sure if there was enough petrol in it (as it 
was supposed to be returned half-full) — and wanting to get a cold soda and some snacks 
anyway, I decided to make the short trip to the Spar.  Asking Joy if I could bring her back 
anything (especially as she was nice enough to do some of my laundry when doing Larry's 
after his return from Scout camp), she replied perhaps just a soda for dinner... so I hopped 
in the car and drove to the nearby Spar.  There, I put in £3/US$4.50 worth of petrol, but 
indeed it wasn't realy necessary, as the tank was now almost 3/4ths full.  Inside, I picked 
up four sodas for Joy, as well as some snacks and a soda for myself.  Though the Half Tree 
Hollow Spar isn't as large as the Jamestown location, it's pretty nice in its own right, with 
the only thing missing up here being those orange Club bars.  Looking at the odometer, not 
even 120 miles had been put on the car this past week, with both Larry and I using it on 
varying days.
	Returning back to the house, I sat down in the bedroom to write in my journal until 
6:15pm, when it was time to shower and get ready for the evening.  Joy served an absolutely 
wonderful dinner of tuna fishcakes, fish curry, and rice — and when I asked her the 
difference between curry and pilau, she told me it's curry if the rice is prepared separately, 
and pilau if it's all mixed together.
	At 7:15pm I put the violin in the car and drove the three of us down to the Baptist 
Chapel to meet some of the Young Musicians.  Upon arriving, Eric George asked if I would 
play a little bit for the kids before presenting the violin, so I agreed.  Some people there I 
already knew, including Raymond from the Scout camp (his son was in the orchestra), but I 
also met some others, including Steve Terry (the temporary ex-pat dentist who was on the 
island relieveing the normal dentist now on vacation).  Steve was an amateur violinist, and 
brought his violin that evening as well... it was a good thing too, for as I started rosining the 
bow, the super-glue failed and the bow broke again (luckily Steve had a spare bow with him 
in his case, and let me borrow it).  Standing up, I introduced myself to the kids, and after 
answering some of Eric's questions (meant for the young ears in the audience), I began 
playing the Meditation from Thais and a bit of the 3rd movement of Mozart's Violin Concerto 
No. 3 (answering more of Eric's questions, and talking a bit to the kids between numbers).  
As Steve had brought a book of Playl duets with him, I convinced him to come up and join 
me on stage — though he requested I play the 2nd violin part, as it was actually the harder 
of the two (with double-stops).  After a few duets, I played a bit more by myself (the first page 
of Paganini Moto Perpetuo, and a different solo Bach than I had played on the radio) before 
returning to some more duets with Steve.
	Once the performances were done it was time for the presentation, and I wound up 
meeting the young girl who was the current violinist in the orchestra (Roxanne... perhaps 
14?)  Posing for a picture together, the lady taking the shot couldn't get the flash on the 
digital camera to work, so she wound up using her old 35mm standby instead.  All in all I'm 
a pretty casual guy, and really hated having all this fuss made about something as simple 
as donating a violin... but I did enjoy talking with the kids and playing for them, and really 
did have a nice evening.  As most of the kids were leaving, one little tot (about 5 years old) 
came by to look at the violin... as I was about his age when I first saw a violin, I let him 
pluck the strings and play with it for a bit... though it was too big for him, he really liked it 
— and perhaps in a few years he'd be another member of the Young Musicians.  As for the 
bow, I promised Eric that I'd send him another one as soon as I returned home — and a few 
months later, I received an email from Eric letting me know that not only had the new bow 
arrived, but that they were also able to fix the old one to use as a spare.
	When the ceremony was finished, Eric invited us all out for a drink at the Consulate 
Hotel (Eric, his wife Ivy, myself, Larry, Joy, Dougie, Steve, and Steve's wife — who was 
another Bitter Lemon fan).  We all had a nice time talking about everything from music to 
the RMS, and left only when the hotel started to turn out its lights downstairs at 10:30pm.  
When I mentioned I had never used my computer to print music, Eric told me how easy it 
was, and invited me up to his place to show me what he can do.  Once outside though, I 
noticed that Jacob's Ladder was once again lit (now that the RMS was in port), and I wanted 
to climb it at night now that the lights were on.  Telling Eric, Ivy, Larry, and Joy that I'd 
meet them at the top in about 15 minutes, I started up the Ladder, enjoying the climb at 
night immensely (especially with all the lights of Jamestown below).
	As I neared the top, the group of four were there waiting for me (Larry drove the car 
up), greeting me as I reached the top step.  At that point we all crammed into the car, and 
with Larry driving, headed off towards Eric's place in the Sapper Way/New Ground Camp 
area, further out past Half Tree Hollow.
	It was about 11:00pm by the time we reached Eric's house, and he immediately sat 
me down next to his computer to show me what it could do.  Using Windows 3.1, he writes 
and arranges music for most of the groups on the island with it, then prints everything out 
on his laser printer.  Showing me how he enters a tune from scratch using his MIDI 
keyboard, he then assigns each voice an instrument in order to hear the approximate sound 
on the computer before printing everything out (and demonstrated by writing a little piece he 
called "The Two Larrys" on the spur of the moment... when he was finished, he printed out 
the page, autographed it, and presented it to me).  Though very happy about being able to 
work with kids, he did lament the fact that the young people on the island usually grow up 
and leave (often to work on Ascension), and he's always having to start over again — yet 
that's the lot in life for a youth orchestra instructor, and he keeps on going full steam ahead.  
At one point a few years ago, he had arranged the entire musical "Annie" for the instruments 
and players available on the island from the piano score (for a production at Prince Andrew 
school) — and said he charged only a nominal fee for spending the hours upon hours it took 
to complete (he still had all the numbers in the computer, and played me some of them — 
and there were plenty... it wasn't just the main songs he arranged, but the entire score).  An 
amazing fellow, he was basically self-taught (having been instructed only in piano), and can 
play most instruments at least a little.  Showing me all he does on the computer, his love for 
both music and kids really made itself obvious, and it was a real joy to sit back and watch 
him proudly show me what he does everyday.  Finally it was time to call it a night at 
12:20am (by this point Larry had fallen asleep on the couch, while Joy and Ivy were busy 
talking about various things) — and had I not been so tired myself, both Eric and I could 
easily have continued on until dawn, for I really enjoyed meeting and talking with him.
	  I volunteered to drive back that night, but the day didn't end at 12:40am when we 
arrived back at the house... alone in the bedroom, I then needed to finish my journal for the 
day, and didn't turn out the lights until 1:45am.  Though it was an extremely long day, it 
certainly was a most enjoyable one.
	Misc. info: while waiting for the lady from the camera shop to call me back, I had a 
look at the island's phone book — and was surprised to see separate areas for both FAX and 
email listings inside.

Jan. 12: St. Helena / RMS
	Having turned in at 1:45am, I didn't manage much sleep by the time I got out of bed 
at 6:30am... but I didn't care... it was my last night on St. Helena, and I'd have plenty of 
time to doze on the RMS during the slow voyage back to Cape Town.
	Walking outside at 6:30am, I hung around the house for a while until Larry and Joy 
woke up.  Having a nice chat, Larry reconfirmed what Mike had earlier told me on board the 
RMS: that country music is the most popular style on the island (Larry himself plays drums 
in a small group which performs in various pubs each Saturday night).  While Larry was 
setting the trash out to be picked up, I saw the garbage truck in the distance: on its side 
was a sign reading "Chuck 'N Chew."  Asking Joy if the street they lived on had a name, she 
replied "no... everyone just knows where everyone lives."  There's an RMS schedule sheet in 
just about every Saint home, and Larry & Joy's was no exception (hanging right in the 
kitchen) — little wonder, as those important dates tell the Saints not only when loved ones 
will be arriving, but mail, fresh fruit, and everything else they must be supplied with.
	It was time to pay Larry & Joy for the accomodations they had provided me for the 
week, as well as for the car rental (as they would return the car and forward the money to 
Patsy for me).  Joy only wanted to accept about half of the proper amount for the car, saying 
that they had used it on the days I hadn't — but I insisted on paying the full amount 
(£70/US$105 for the week), as it was my decision to rent the car.  I also felt that the £70 (for 
a week's accomodation) wasn't enough with all the extra things they had done for me 
(everything from cooking meals and packing lunches to inviting me along with them to the 
Scout camp) — and I wanted to leave more.  Joy wouldn't hear of it, but finally I gave her 
£150 total (telling her to take at least £80 for the accomodations, as I pointed out not only 
the food, but that Larry had put petrol in the car yesterday as well).  Both Larry and Joy 
were extremely friendly, and took me in as part of their life for a week... I couldn't have 
found a better place to stay while on St. Helena.
	Over breakfast, I copied down the fishcake recipie (to try at home) from two St. 
Helena cookbooks Joy had in the kitchen, and at 7:45am it was time for the three of us to 
head down into town (as cabin bags for the RMS were supposed to be dropped off by 
8:00am).  On the way, I left Joy off at the Hospital (no work today, but she wanted to leave 
off some flowers), before continuing on with Larry all the way to the end of the docks (past 
the customs shed), where large containers filled with cabin baggage were waiting to be lifted 
onto the RMS by the crane.
	Now that the bags were taken care of, I had about two hours left to look around 
Jamestown.  As Larry and I split up for a bit (he went to find Joy), I walked into the post 
office at 8:30am — only to find a huge queue of people waiting on the left side to pick up 
mail the RMS had just delivered (as each person reached the front of the line, the lady 
behind the counter would go in back to see what mail or packages had come for them... she 
didn't even have to ask their name — she already knew everyone).  With all the staff now on 
the left side helping with the mail, the philatelic (right) side of the post office was quiet... but 
after a few minutes, someone came by and noticed me, and I bought another set of newly-
minted St. Helena coins in a pouch, as well as two copies of the small "St. Helena in Figures 
1999" pamphlet.
	From the post office, I spent the first part of the morning having a last look inside 
some of the town's shops (in the window of one was a sign advertising a dance on Jan. 20th 
to help with overseas music tuition).  After buying a small souvenir from Solomon's, I 
realized I should get another fine-tip pen (for writing in the journal) in case the pens I had 
ran out of ink — but looking around town, no one seemed to sell fine-tip ballpoint pens (only 
medium tip).  Finally, someone suggested trying the Emporium (a shop which sells general 
hardware supplies), and sure enough, I found a fine-tip ballpoint there for 30p/45c.  
Returning to the post office to buy another postcard and stamp, I noticed a sign advertising 
special new weekend rates for calls to countries other than the UK or South Africa (which 
are cheaper): the new "cheap" weekend rate for most countries was £1.50/US$2.25 per 
minute (from my perspective, it currently costs only 7c/min for calls from the US to Hong 
Kong, and about 55c for calls from the US to St. Helena).
	At 9:15am I stopped in at the St. Helena News to see if this week's paper was ready 
yet.  Unfortunately not only was it not ready, but they hadn't even sent it to the printer's yet 
— a fellow was still working on a computer to finish the back sports page.  Buying an old 
paper from a few weeks ago (so I'd at least have something to read), I asked if it'd be possible 
for someone to send me this week's in the mail (I left £1 to cover any costs, as the paper is 
15p).  The lady told me to write my name and address down, but for quite some time after 
returning home, nothing ever came.  Then in the middle of June (a full five months later), I 
received a package with the January 12th St. Helena News in it, along with a small note 
apologizing for the delay.
	Having just a little bit of time left, I decided to walk up some of the smaller streets of 
Jamestown that I had missed before (finding a building with the humorous sign "Press For 
Percy" next to the bell).  Back in the heart of town, I met up with Mike, who apologized for 
not yet running off a copy of the show for me, but thought that someone else might have 
aleady taken care of it — and if not, I was to email him upon returning home.  Suddenly, I 
heard my name being called, and saw Larry coming up to me holding a package he needed 
to deliver to the large general-merchandise store near the prison.  As I hadn't yet been inside 
this shop, I decided to go with him, and spent some time looking around inside while Larry 
chatted with the clerk (outside, I could see Lionel at the prison as he waved a friendly hello 
over to me).  Seeing all the cars in town today, I was again reminded of the great mix of 
vehicles the island has: everything from 1960s British Minis to a 1980s Yugo to a new 
Suzuki jeep... I even saw the Governor's car (with just a crown for a license plate) drive by 
the other day.
	Soon it was time to head to the water, where a good number of people were already 
gathered to say their goodbyes.  Meeting Joy again, she presented me with a bag of presents: 
a St. Helena cookbook and apron, accompanied by a nice note.  Thanking her, the three of 
us talked for a while, as I also said goodbye to others I had met on the island, from Eric 
Benjamin to some of the parents I had met at the Scout camp.
	Mike then came by and he introduced me to one of the priests on the island (someone 
I'm told drinks and swears nothing like a priest should).  As the subject of the prison came 
up, Mike related the story of one prisoner to me: apparently, there's a local Saint named Mr. 
Polly who keeps escaping from prison whenever a magistrate is about to visit the island... he 
was convicted of arson, and is upset not because he was found guilty, but because he has to 
spend time in jail while his fellow accomplice (who is the brother of the 2nd Chief of Police) 
got off (at least that's the way he sees it).  So everytime the magistrate comes to the island, 
he escapes up into the hills, coming back down as soon as the magistrate leaves.  The police 
saw him go once, but didn't want to follow him up the hillside (as they know he'll always 
return once the magistrate leaves).  There was another prisoner who did manage to escape 
the island though: a foreigner who arrived on a yacht with drugs on board escaped by 
stealing another yacht, so his original boat still sits in the Jamestown harbor today.  While 
talking about the prison, Larry corroborated what I had earlier heard from others: that the 
real sentence on the island for a prisoner isn't the jail term, but the stigma one has from 
having been jailed — and having a prison record might deny you the opportunity for good 
work overseas (such as on Ascension).
	Standing and talking with Larry, Joy, and Mike by the water there, I watched as the 
crowds slowly diminished, with most taking the shuttle bus the short distance out to the 
launches.  With a few other RMS passengers still in the area though (such as Linda and Len 
— the Scotish vet and her English fiance who were to get married on St. Helena), I figured I 
was still safe.  Finally, Joy mentioned that while she wished I didn't have to leave, it might 
be time for me to go — and as I pointed to the others, Mike reminded me that they would be 
staying on St. Helena for five weeks.  Uh-oh!  After a quick final goodbye, I half-ran towards 
the landing (as the last bus had already left), and made it just in time to be loaded onto the 
final launch out to the RMS.
	The water was now calmer around the harbor, and looking back at Jamestown, the 
sun was starting to peer through the otherwise cloudy sky (though it was still quite warm).
	On board the RMS, this was the segment where Curnow had screwed up and given 
someone else cabin C49... my new cabin was C43 (also a two-person cabin, but without a 
porthole, and more cramped than C49).  Without a porthole, there was no area underneath 
for the person on the top bunk to place his things, but in the end my new bunkmake Ken 
wound up taking the top bunk first (I didn't mind... it would be a change).  Ken was a young 
Brit who had visited St. Helena to study the birds and ecology of the island, yet seemed to 
spend each night on the ship at the bar, and the days sleeping the drinks off in the cabin.  
Still, he was nice enough, and though he snored, at least he didn't smoke.
	Out on the sun deck of the RMS once more, it was as if we were still on that first 
RMS segment, with our usual group back together again, sitting out and talking about our 
experiences on the island.  Pat/SA was back after having sailed to Ascension (as was Fritz 
and his friend), but while Fritz got off the ship to take a short 3-hour island tour, Pat 
decided just to stay on the boat and relax.
	Chatting with some other RMS passengers, we also caught up with Wendy, a lady in 
her late 30s from the UK whose birth mother was a Saint.  Given up for adoption at 3 years 
of age, she never knew where she was from or who her real mother was until recently, and 
had never even heard of St. Helena before she started researching her past.  When she 
managed to find out where she was from, she wrote her relatives on the island... her mother 
didn't reply, but her aunt did, and invited Wendy to visit.  With no idea of what to expect, 
Wendy sailed with us aboard the RMS and stayed the week on St. Helena.  In the end her 
mother still didn't want to meet with her, but Wendy had a fantastic time on the island 
meeting her aunt and all her other relatives (who urged her to come visit again anytime she 
wanted) — and seemed quite happy not only to finally know about her past, but to know all 
the relatives she has on St. Helena.
	Besides most of the outbound passengers returning and a few new Saints aboard, 
there were two other passengers of note now on the RMS: the Governor and his wife (in 
cabin B-36).  Because of the RMS breakdown last year, the Governor was unable to visit 
Tristan da Cunha for his official duties, so was making the trip this year.  He and his wife 
would be on board the RMS for the journey back to Cape Town, then to Tristan and back, 
and over the course of the next few weeks, I'd have a chance to talk and meet with both of 
	Without much wait (as I was with the last group to board the RMS), the ship blew its 
horn and slowly started to leave.  Captain Roberts sailed the ship past Jamestown, Half Tree 
Hollow, and a bit further in order to give us all one last look at St. Helena before sailing off 
into the open water.  Once away from the island, the skies were pure blue, with St. Helena's 
fading shape the only spot with clouds over it.
	It was soon announced that the ship's clocks would immediately be advanced by an 
hour — so 2:00pm suddenly became 3:00pm.  At 5:30pm (4:30pm island time), I could still 
pick up Radio St. Helena out on deck, catching a bit of the 5:00pm (4:00pm) BBC relay from 
the station.
	On selected days, classical music would be pumped out onto the sun deck in the late 
afternoons (usually close to sunset time)... today's printed program had a humorous 
mistake: instead of the "Bruch Violin Concerto", the selection was listed as the "Brunch 
Violin Concerto."
	For dinner seating this segment, we were now all officially at Table 16 (the large 
round table which we had "requisitioned" during the outbound segment)... as the Captain's 
table for the second sitting, it would also be the Governor's table as well now that he was on 
board.  Tonight service was a bit slow, and we weren't quite finished with the meal at 
7:55pm (at which point the waiters get nervous if you haven't left yet).  Though James had 
asked for dessert, they still hadn't brought it — and when they finally did, he was adamant 
about not gulping it down.  Kevin was adamant too that we wouldn't be rushed, and we all 
stayed with James as he ate his dessert past 8:00pm, even as the hotel officer peered his 
head in to find out why the 8:00pm sitting hadn't been called to dinner yet.  I know that the 
staff had done us a favor by allowing us to use the table for the first sitting (our waiter said 
it had never been done before), but James was 83 and had ordered dessert early enough... 
should he have missed out because it wasn't delivered promptly?  After tonight, there was 
never a problem... service was much faster, and as we were always served our food with 
enough time to eat, we reciprocated by making sure we were out early enough for the staff to 
clean up for the 8:00pm sitting (though there were plenty of occasions where the 8:00pm 
dinner sitting didn't end on time, and the 9:15pm or 9:30pm scheduled entertainment 
would start 20-30 minutes late).
	After dinner tonight I walked outside to watch a gorgeous sunset followed by a sky of 
bright stars.  Everyone in the group then related their discoveries and impressions of the 
island, and it was interesting to hear the slant others had on St. Helena: most Saints who 
receive money from the government do a 3-day work week to earn their money, though 
Kevin commented that they never seemed to be working at all (I did notice a lot of workers 
just relaxing on the job — but then, it's also St. Helena)... Peter related a story told to him 
by a a Saint about visiting Cape Town with his girlfriend at age 18 — things in Cape Town 
were so different and strange that his girlfriend cried the whole time (though this has now 
somewhat changed, as with the introduction of the internet in 1998, TV in 1995, and videos 
since the early 1980s, Saint kids are now much more aware of what the outside world is 
	Kevin and Cel talked about the "official" and "unofficial" figures from government 
employees, and how they'd be given an official office email address at a meeting, then later 
told to "use my personal one instead"... we all talked about the way news travels on the 
island, and Kevin related a story: there's a clause in the regulations regarding people who 
wish to move to and set up businesses on St. Helena, stating that they must be able to show 
a "substantial" profit.  Try as he might, Kevin was unable to get the government officials to 
define what "substantial" meant, and angry at not being able to have this important 
question answered directly, he voiced his frustration to fellow visitors while in the bar of the 
Consulate Hotel.  The news of his disappointment soon travelled back to the officials, and 
within hours, they came up to him and presented him with exactly what he was asking for 
(in this case, a figure of £5,000/US$7,500 a year) — and then wanted to know if they could 
answer any other questions... along the same lines, Kevin commented that it's better to 
complain to someone else rather than to the person directly, mentioning that when he was 
upset at Ann for serving cold food that one night when everyone was angry, he mentioned it 
to a few other people, and the next day, Ann came up to him acting extremely friendly and 
	Peter made the observation that the Saints could help themselves out so much if they 
just opened their eyes to the business opportunities around them, commenting that if a 
restaurant were to open at 8:15am instead of 9:00am, it would have the business of the 
everyone who has to be in town early to start work at 9:00am (saying that if someone even 
just put out a stand selling coffee and croissants early in the morning, they could make 
quite a bit of money)... Peter also related a story from this morning: having left his bags off 
at 7:45am, Peter was extremely hungry, but nothing was open.  Asking around, a local 
finally told him to see Joan (in the Market Building) for some breakfast — but when he went 
inside, the CAFE CLOSED sign was up even though she was in the back cooking.  Normally 
he would have just walked away upon seeing the CLOSED sign, but because a local had just 
told him he could get breakfast there, he decided to ask for some, and Joan replied "sure, 
you want bacon and egg?"  When Peter told her "you know, your sign says CLOSED", her 
reply was "yeah, but that's ok.  Everyone knows I'm open" — but Peter told us there were at 
least 8 tourists who passed by earlier hoping to get a bite to eat, but upon seeing the CAFE 
CLOSED sign, moved on.
	Morris mentioned meeting a woman with 5 kids from different husbands, and there 
didn't seem to be any animosity among anyone involved.
	Sitting there and thinking back myself on St. Helena, it occured to me that St. Helena 
was probably the polar opposite of a place such as Kuala Lumpur... in KL, you shove your 
way around, honk, and make a fuss with no apology, whereas on St. Helena, people are 
happy to wait patiently while someone in a car in front of them stops to chat... while the 
Saints certainly have feelings and opinions, they don't shove it down your throat the way so 
much of the outside world does, and their soft-spokenness was a real contrast to places 
such as KL (not to pick on KL particularly, but it was somewhere I had recently just visited).
	Thinking back to my time behind the wheel on the island, I laughed as I realized that 
for two years I had tried to find a stickshift rental car to learn on with no luck — I had to go 
to St. Helena Island in the middle of the South Atlantic in order to learn how to drive a stick!
	Taking a bit of time to look through the old (Dec. 8 2000) issue of the St. Helena 
News, these were just some of the stories: The QE2 had arrived, but due to the rough waters 
around James Bay, passengers were unable to disembark and walk onto the island, 
disappointing not only them, but those who owned shops and businesses in Jamestown.  It 
was estimated that with the number of passengers the QE2 carries, the lost revenue could 
have been as high as £35,000/US$52,500, as it was estimated local merchants made 
£20,000/US$35,000 from the QE2's November landing... there were 23 police reports, with 
three being theft-related (one was the reported theft of a garden hose and sprinkler), and the 
mention that "the police are appealing for any informatin which will lead to the detection of 
these crimes, which are still under investigation"... mention that the current public solicitor 
will be leaving now that his contract is up, and as his replacement won't arrive until 
February, if anyone needs legal advice, they should phone one of the lay advocates... the 
Tourist Office is continuing with UNDP-funded projects, one of which is the replacement of 
directional signs around the island (being made by two unemployed people)... a full page 
devoted to church news and service times... a full page listing various discos (Pub Paradise, 
Donny's, Dillon and Son, Godfathers Rock Club, Silver Hill) and their scheduled bands for 
the week... a full page of TV listings... a full page showing the Radio St. Helena program 
guide for the week... a full page for sports (the back page)... a notice that if you have 
something to sell up to £30, you can advertise free in the St. Helena News... an ad from a 
guy in the States: "America pays excellent American money for real Martian Meteorites"... 
thanks given to the owners of Pub Paradise for providing free tea to 25 Blue Hillians on their 
return from planting 50 trees out at the Millennium Forest... a recap of a recent Legislative 
Council meeting... notice of a house for sale in High Hill area... From Cable & Wireless: "Do 
you require a TV installation or telephone connection before Christmas?  If so, please 
contact us by the 15th of December"... "The Rose & Crown has JVC HiFi music systems, 
Sony Discmans, Daewoo 14" Televisions"... an ad for someone offering desktop publishing 
services: "we hope this will fill the gap in the services that Saints 2000 will no longer offer 
due to the departure of Andrew Yon"... birthday greetings for a young 2yr-old girl... and 
among other stories, a full page on the subject of television influencing people's behavior, 
and the study done recently using St. Helena as the testing ground.  Here are edited 
excerpts of the two stories (one from the Daily Express, and the other an op-ed piece):
        PROOF TV REALLY IS GOOD FOR YOU (from the Daily Express, 28 October)
	  Experts have exploded the myth that watching television leads to bad
	  behaviour in yongsters.  In an 8-year study, child psychologists
	  scrutinised children's behaviour on the remote island of St. Helena
	  to see if the introduction of television in 1995 made a difference to
	  their conduct.  Far from discovering that the children became more
	  violent, it found that their anti-social behaviour actually decreased
	  slightly.  "Our report concludes that it's all to do with the amount of
	  family and school support and checks that are made on children's
	  behaviour," Professor Charlton said.  Over 2,000 minutes of video
	  recordings were analysed from the island's two playgrounds.  Results
	  found there was little change in anti-social behaviour such as kicking,
	  pushing, and pinching, with an actual slight decrease in anti-social
	  behaviour.  Fewer than 7% of children on the island have serious
	  behaviourial problems, compared to 12% in London...
        The Op-Ed Piece:
	  A month ago, UK papers gave coverage to the latest findings from the
	  St. Helena TV Project.  Comparisons between children's anti-social
	  behaviour before and after TV arrived have been reported previously.
	  On this most recent occasion however, the research focused upon a wide
	  range of first school children's playground behaviour, including
	  football and other games, talking, sharing, turn-taking, etc.  Few
	  "significant" differences were noted in playground behaviour between
	  1992 and 2000, and other results showed that first school pupils are
	  at least as well-behaved now as they were eight years ago.  As in 1992,
	  there was little evidence of unwanted behaviours such as bullying,
	  teasing, fighting and kicking... in St. Helena, we may not always be as
	  swift as we should be in recognising and applauding positive aspects of
	  our island life.  Perhaps we should recognise island qualities which
	  those elsewhere view with envy...

	 It should be noted though, that many people feel the TV study was flawed and didn't 
represent the full story.  One of the main arguements they have is that while the study 
started in 1992 (before television was introduced in 1995), there had been videos on the 
island since the early 1980s, and many of these action videos are far more violent than the 
relatively benign two (now three) channels offered on television.  They say that in order for 
the study to have any merit, it would have to have started in the 1970s before the 
introduction of such videos, but in the end, regardless of the whether TV has made a 
difference on the children or not, Saint kids are still extremely well-behaved, and as the op-
ed writer suggested, the island should be proud of this fact.
	At 10:00pm I walked into the children's room to finish my journal... we were now 
headed into the wind and waves, so the ride for the next few days would be considerably 
choppier than the smooth one we had sailing to St. Helena.
	Some misc. info: while inside St. Helena stores, I noticed that prices on items 
imported from the UK containing a printed suggested retail price were slightly higher than 
the printed price (though still reasonable), but prices on most items (especially those from 
South Africa) were quite cheap... there were 101 passengers on board the RMS for this 
segment, including a Saint named Larry (a friend of Morris') who managed to get a cheap 
last-minute deal for the sailing, giving himself a short holiday in Cape Town... I was 
surprised at the number of people who heard me on the radio, as more people came up to 
me on the ship to let me know they had heard me play, and enjoyed it.

Jan. 13: RMS
	I only slept so-so last night, though at least there wasn't a rooster to wake me up at 
3:20am.  Without a porthole in the cabin though, it's impossible to know if it's time to get up 
or not without searching for your watch in the dark (without a window, 7:30am looks just 
like 3:30am)... and having total darkness around you isn't condusive to waking up in the 
morning, let alone being able to look out at the weather and have an idea of what to wear.  
Not wanting to push my luck with my knee yet (which had been doing OK), I decided not to 
exercise this morning, and instead just went down to breakfast after a shower.
	The feeling on the ship for this return voyage was slower and more subdued than on 
the outbound voyage, with most passengers realizing that the best part of their vacation was 
now over, yet they'd still be stuck on this ship for the next five days.  I knew beforehand that 
I'd feel this way myself somewhat (and I was right), even though I'd be continuing onto 
Tristan afterwards.  Also contributing to the quieter atmosphere over the next five days was 
the ship encountering much rougher seas than on the way out, making many people seasick 
and wanting to stay in their cabins.  As we were heading into the wind and waves, the ship's 
speed was also slower, meaning that the trip back would take a bit longer (at the noon-time 
report, Andrew announced we were travelling at a speed of 15.1 nautical miles rather than 
the 16.1 we were doing while headed towards St. Helena).  Three of the yachts from the 
Governor's Cup race were out on the main cargo deck tied down... because of the rough 
currents and winds heading back to Cape Town, the participating yachts don't sail back on 
their own, but either get carried back to Cape Town aboard the RMS or continue sailing on 
towards the Caribbean.
	Most of the bright, sunny morning was spent talking to the regular group out on the 
sun deck, but at 11:00am I tried deck quoits for the first time (on the RMS the game is 
played by throwing rubber discs towards marked rings up on the funnel deck, with the 
object being to get as many points as you can while trying to slide you're opponent's discs 
out of the way).  Forming a team with Morris, I began to get the hang of it after a few turns, 
and even though we didn't win, we nevertheless managed to do pretty well (leading for most 
of the game until one of my last throws was spoiled by the rocking ship — "Neptune's Luck" 
as Nigel put it).
	When the ship's store opened this morning it was packed with people buying St. 
Helena post cards, canned St. Helena tuna (60p/90c — the same price as the tourist shops 
on the island), books, souvenirs, and other miscellaneous items.  I myself wound up buying 
a 2001 St. Helena calendar (£5/US$7.50) as it had some nice pictures of the island, as well 
as an RMS keyring for a friend (£1.95/US$2.93) and a 39-exposure (no flash) Kodak 
disposable camera (£6/US$9) as a backup in case the lens on my Canon  couldn't be fixed 
or replaced.
	In the late morning there was a questionaire from the St. Helena Tourist Office at the 
purser's office you could fill out and leave anonymously — though with it asking for your 
"NATIONALITY" and "OCCUPATION", it kind of took away the anonymity (as I was one of 
only two Americans on the RMS, and the only musician).  Deciding to leave those two spaces 
blank, I went ahead and filled out the rest of the questionaire... my biggest criticism (and I 
wrote a long paragraph about this) was that information on St. Helena is hard to find, and 
the Tourist Office should realize this and volunteer information on various topics instead of 
answering only those questions directly asked of them (as it's impossible for visitors to think 
of every possible question that might yield important information).  I also mentioned the 
problem with the double-booking that happened (there goes the anonymity), but I realize 
they're a small office, relatively new to the tourist industry.  However, it just would be nice 
(especially when the big ships are in port) to have a bulletin board outside the Tourist Office 
where tourism officials, business owners, and local citizens can post information about 
events happening around the island — whether it be tours, poetry readings, or which bands 
are playing in which pubs this week.  Such a thing would be a win-win idea, helping visitors 
know what's going on, and helping local businesses as well.
	Already thinking about the next part of my trip to Tristan da Cunha, I asked Nigel 
this morning if it might be possible to stay on island itself rather than staying on board the 
ship offshore (the normal routine), as a few months back I stumbled upon a South African 
website which stated there was a guesthouse on Tristan where one can arrange a stay — if 
there's room and permission is given.  A few weeks before leaving, I emailed the 
Administrator of the island (the only person on Tristan with email), but received no 
response.  I thought perhaps the email address might be wrong, but what I didn't know at 
the time was that due to a computer virus his computer crashed — and no email was getting 
through at all.  Telling Nigel I knew about the guesthouse, he said it depends on the 
Administrator and if people are allowed to disembark, as with Tristan there's always the 
possibility we could sail all the way there only to find the water too rough for anyone to leave 
the ship (though with the Governor on board this time, there would be at least SOME people 
who would need to go onto the island for a few days).  Acknowledging that yes, others have 
stayed at the guesthouse in the past and no one else had yet asked him yet about it, Nigel 
said he'd email the Administrator to ask for me.
	Lunch today was interesting: one of the choices was a "taco", but it certainly wasn't 
anything near authentic (to be fair though, tacos aren't exactly British or St. Helenan fare).  
While most Southern Californians consume hundreds of tacos a year (usually 2 or 3 at a 
time), there was only one taco on the plate, presented in a gourmet setting (hey, tacos are 
supposed to be quick 'n dirty!)  Looking around, I noticed I was the only person who had 
ordered the taco plate... Pat/SA had never even HEARD of a taco before, but I can't fault 
her: I myself didn't know most of the British names the various foods were given on the 
menu, and often someone would have to explain to me just exactly what something was (for 
example, what the RMS calls "coupe mysterie" would be a "fudge sundae" to me).  The taco 
was less-than-satisfying (they tried, but it was pretty pathetic), though this failure was a 
rare exception in an otherwise excellent array of meals.
	Over lunch, a passenger who had planted a tree at the Millennium Forest mentioned 
that there are now over 4,000 trees there... at the noontime announcement today, the air 
temperature outside was 73F, with the water being an even warmer 75F... while I was 
eating, the Governor came down to peer into the galley for a bit before leaving.  A few 
minutes later his wife came in, sat down, and began complaining about something — and a 
bit later, the Governor came back to sit down at the table next to us.
	After lunch I relaxed, watching about 20 minutes of "The Untouchables" in the alcove 
of the main lounge before playing a game of Scrabble with Howard.  Later in the afternoon I 
went outside for bit, and Alan (a relative of Pat the shoeman) was outside as well, noticing 
the swells.  Even with the stabilizers, the ship was rocking quite a bit, and by now there 
were clouds and even a bit of rain.  Walking up to the bridge, the 1st mate (a Brit) 
mentioned it would probably be like this for the rest of the evening, and when it began to 
rain, he frantically tried searching for the windscreen controls (when the wipers didn't do 
much good, he commented "no wonder why we never use them...")  In a way, the swells, grey 
clouds, and rain were probably more realistic of what life is usually like out on the open sea 
(instead of the smooth, glassy water and sun we had been spoiled with on the outbound), 
and I actually enjoyed the change in weather — though others seasick in their cabins for the 
next few days would beg to differ, I'm sure.  Outside the bridge I also talked to the current 
watchman on duty — the person who sits out on either side of the bridge to look for passing 
ships, debris, and other dangers in the water.  It was always a Saint who had this job, and 
two of the regular watchmen were great fellows to chat with.
	After dinner tonight our gang played a game of Trivial Pursuit to pass the time while 
the 8:00pm sitting ate (Morris and I won) until "frog racing" began at 9:30pm.  "Frog racing" 
(in the main lounge) consisted of 5 people sitting in a chair holding a rope fed through a 
wooden frog with a hole in it — the idea is to jerk the rope in a manner so as to bring the 
wooden frog closer to you — and the first person who brings the frog all the way across the 
floor to them wins.  Passengers could bet on which of the 5 players they thought would win 
(20p/30c per bet, complete with odds based on the number of bets for each participant after 
all had been placed), and everyone seemed to take part in the action.  While we were 
finishing Trivial Pursuit, a few people went up to practice on the frogs, but I hadn't even 
bothered to see what was going on until 9:30pm, when the event officially began.  There was 
a new chief purser on board (a Brit named Geoff who had been on vacation and re-joined the 
RMS at Ascension, though he had been doing the job for years — first on the old Union 
Castle Line, then on the RMS), and after two rounds with volunteers and staff, Geoff took 
the mic and announced that the final round would be an "international" match, with the 5 
participants coming from various countries (uh-oh... as just about the only American on 
board, guess who would be picked?)  There was a Saint, a Brit, someone from Namibia, a 
South African, and myself.  Not having paid attention earlier, I didn't know the right way to 
jerk the rope, and didn't realize how to do it properly until the race was almost over.  
Though I came in second-to-last tonight, I did much better a few weeks later while on the 
Tristan sailing, recovering some of my wounded pride.  For the first round, I bet on someone 
at random (20p), but my old bunkmate Howard wound up winning... for the second round 
(played between the ship's officers as well as the Governor with an added twist: they had to 
drink 1/2 pint of beer first before starting), I bet 20p on the doctor, but lost (Carl wound up 
winning)... and for my round, a nice young Saint woman named Pamela won (seeing the 
Governor bet on her, she joked that he better have, to save face).
	After frog racing, our group dispursed for the night, so I sat down with the Governor, 
his wife, Pamela, and the "proper Brit" couple from dinner early in the voyage.  The Governor 
(who was quite nice) mentioned he was stationed in Dallas during the Falklands war, and we 
chatted about various topics: Pamela mentioned that St. Helena had two bouts of polio (Eric 
George walks with a cane now because of the disease) — one in the 40s, and another in the 
50s... she also took great issue with the study on television violence done on St. Helena, 
noting that it didn't take into account the violent videos that have been on the island since 
the 1980s, and that as someone who actually lives on the island, she has noticed a definite 
change in kids' behaviors over the years, mentioning that the author himself had never 
actually been to St. Helena.  When I brought up seeing Ann's grandson playing with a toy 
gun while eating at her place, Mrs. Governor (from El Salvador originally, though very much 
a politician's wife) said Ann's granddaughter Jessica came up to her husband recently to say 
"you're fat!" (and to another person, "you're old!"), so she decided to retort back to the young 
child (about 7 years old): "you're rude!"  Though not saying anything, one part of me sided 
with the kid, as honesty is something we all tend to lose once we grow up (though to be fair, 
the Governor really isn't that fat).
	Over the course of the next few weeks, the Governor's wife seemed to make it quite 
clear that she didn't enjoy being on St. Helena, and saw it more as a prison term than a 
plum posting... this is unfortunate for all the Saints for whom St. Helena is home.  While the 
Governor's wife would often come up to talk to me, I have to say that she seemed the 
stereotype of a spoiled, stuck-up, status-conscious society lady (true or not, it was the 
impression I constantly had of her — as apparently, did the Saints), and seemed almost the 
polar opposite of her quieter, more down-to-earth husband.  Whereas the Mrs. always 
seemed to be complaining about one thing or another, the Governor seemed pleasant, 
friendly, and taking things in stride — though he's still quite the consummate politician.  
One complaint I heard from Saints about this current Governor is that he doesn't mix as 
much with the locals as previous Governors had, but my own opinion is that the problem 
doesn't lie with whomever the current Governor may be so much as with the system of 
having a Governor in the first place — someone appointed from London to run an island in 
the middle of the South Atlantic, where he has never lived and has no stake in its future — 
and which he'll leave after a few years without being around to see the results or 
consequences of his decisions (while there is a Legislative Council, as I understand it, the 
Governor has the final word if there is a disagreement).  Still, whether you agree or disagree 
with the current Governor's policies, he's quite approachable on a one-to-one basis outside 
of politics as just a regular guy with a good sense of humor.  In passing tonight, the 
Governor mentioned he heard it had actually snowed in Los Angeles (as I later found out, it 
was barely noticable only in one particular place, but was rare nonetheless).
	After discussing St. Helena for a bit, talk soon turned to Tristan (where both the 
Governor and his wife would be headed to take care of some official duties): just a couple of 
months ago, two fishermen drowned off the island because of bad weather — one drowned 
initially, and another (who tried to rescue the first), drowned as well... Pamela mentioned 
there was recently a play in London about the time in the 1960s when the Tristanians were 
forced to evacuate to London due to the volcano erupting, believing the title was something 
like "Farther than the Farthest Thing"... she also mentioned that when she visited the island 
10 years ago, she was surprised that the volcano that had erupted wasn't the large, main 
cone, but a small tiny offshoot to the side.
	During the course of our chat, Pamela found out my name — and suddenly said "Ah, 
there was a package for you I left off with the purser's office yesterday... something from 
Tony over at the radio station..."  It was already the second day at sea, and no one from the 
ship had informed me I had a package waiting... if I hadn't spoken to Pamela by chance (and 
she hadn't found out my name), would I ever have received the package?  The next day I 
went to inquire about it, and saw it was the package from Tony containing two cassettes of 
the interviews I did at the station.
	After talking for a few more minutes, we all split up to go our separate ways.  There 
was a scheduled disco in the lounge, but not many people were dancing with the ship 
rocking so much.  Sitting there, I realized I would be on this ship for almost three more 
	Deciding to play with the satellite phone a bit (as everything on the ship was quiet), it 
took three attempts for a call to St. Helena to go through, and calls to other INMARSAT 
numbers were blocked, with the word "UNAVAILABLE" appearing on the LCD display (I tried 
calling the ship's "874" FAX line as a test).
	Misc. info: Americans are used to disposable paper toilet seat covers in public 
restrooms, but no place I visited on this trip had them (including the RMS) — so I'd wind up 
using toilet paper to cover the seat on a public toilet... it was generally much colder in the 
cabins than elsewhere on the ship (even the hallways were warmer), though perhaps this 
was just as well, as it's easier to sleep under some blankets when it's cool than when it's 
stuffy.  The rooms did have temperature controls, but they never seemed to work in 
anyone's cabin.

Jan. 14: RMS [St. Helena Info]
	I hardly had any sleep last night... after reading some of "Red October" I went to bed 
at 1:00am — but at 3:00am Ken came in quite drunk, and the cabin was soon filled with 
lawnmower-volume snoring so loud that neither the good earplugs nor the radio blasting 
static in my ear could block it out.  I was so tired in the morning that I asked Colin if there 
was a room I could get some sleep in tonight, but all the cabins were full (I verified this 
myself by looking at the master list posted up by the purser's bureau).  Searching around 
the ship for an area that would be quiet in the evenings, I decided that if the snoring was as 
bad tonight, I'd sleep either in the exercise room (where there were blankets and pillows in 
the closet) or the doctor's semi-private waiting office across the hall.  Later that morning I 
told the group why I was so tired, and Kevin kidded me about it for a while (asking me the 
next day if I had slept in the exercise room).  A few days later, Ken found out that I hadn't 
had much sleep one night because of his snoring and aplogized (confirming that it was due 
to all the alcohol)... I told him not to worry about it, as while it was still loud on subsequent 
nights, it wasn't half as bad as that second night, and never forced me to sleep outside the 
	Seeing Nigel in the hallway this morning, I asked if he had a package waiting for me, 
and went later to pick up the two cassettes from Radio St. Helena.
	Outside was a mix of sun and clouds today, but the waves were still quite choppy, 
causing a lot of people to stay in their cabins instead of coming out for breakfast (even 
Pat/UK wasn't feeling well).  After breakfast, a man who had been tracking the RMS' course 
on a large chart with the aid of a portable GPS unit pointed out that the straight course the 
RMS had been on was altered yesterday (as it turns out, to try to avoid bad weather) though 
we were now back on course after having lost some time.  Later in the morning when Kevin 
went on the engine room tour, he found out we were indeed a few hours behind schedule 
now, but the Captain hoped to make up the time in transit, as the ship had to be in Cape 
Town by a certain hour on Jan. 17th to be used for the filming of a TV commercial in the 
evening.  It was also announced that because of the film crew needing to be on board the 
ship, those people continuing on to Tristan the next day would be put up in a local Cape 
Town hotel (the Townhouse) instead of staying on board the ship.  As I was the only 
passenger of the dozen or so people taking both voyages asked to pay money to stay on 
board, I opted to arrange accomodation on my own in Cape Town (with Kritz at the B&B) — 
and though the thought of possibly being put up in a nice hotel room for the night appealed 
to me, I decided to stick with Kritz (or at least pay him for the night), as I had already asked 
him to hold the room.  With the shoddy way Curnow had treated me (asking for money from 
me but not from others), I was curious to see how the situation unfolded, but in the end, 
Curnow (ever cheap) changed their minds about the Townhouse Hotel, and decided just to 
keep everyone on board the ship.
	Going against the waves and wind, our speed was now much slower than on the 
outbound: sailing at the same 85% power level as had before, the somewhat-inaccurate 
speed indicator over the bridge door showed 12.8 nautical miles, while the more accurate 
GPS indicator read 13.5 — compared to 16.1 during the trip out to St. Helena.
	After breakfast I decided to relax and do a bit of reading... going back to the cabin to 
fetch my book, I saw Ken still sleeping like a log on his bunk.  Upstairs in the sun lounge, I 
noticed the Governor sitting down reading himself, so asked if I could join him and ask a few 
quetions, to which he kindly obliged.
	Both today and later in the trip (see Jan. 29) I was able to spend some time talking 
with the Governor about the problems facing St. Helena.  Asking him first a bit about how 
the system of British governors works, I learned that there are 13 British Overseas 
Dependent Territories with governors — except these days (unlike during colonial times), the 
governors come from the Foreign Office.
	Gov. Hollamby has held many postings over the years, from the US (New York and 
Texas) to Rome (his most recent one), and was in the Caribbean section of the Foreign Office 
when it merged with the South Atlantic section... being the deputy head, he asked for the 
posting to St. Helena and received it.  When I asked if it was what he expected, he replied 
"partially... but not quite", commenting that people are always coming up to him with every 
conceivable problem (a pothole here, a pothole there, etc.), with him having to reply that he 
can't fix everything himself — go see the appropriate person.  Saying the island's isolation is 
the worst thing about the posting, he mentioned that he tries to take breather holidays from 
time to time.
	The Governor seemed quite proud of the some of the changes he's tried to implement 
on the island, including liberalizing immigration policy (insuring it's no longer the hassle it 
once was for spouses of Saints wishing live on St. Helena) as well as liberalizing shop 
opening hours (if a shop now wants to open on Wednesday afternoons or Sundays, they can 
— though so far, none seem to have done so).  He's in charge of finance, defense and other 
"national" issues, with much of the local concerns being left to the elected Legislative 
Council.  As Governor of St. Helena, he's also in charge of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha 
(both dependents of St. Helena... though there is an Administrator on each — his "deputies" 
as he calls them), and is also technically in charge of the RMS.
	The island's budget lasts for 3 years, with the current one higher than the last — but 
still down about 16% in real terms (adjusted costs) over the last few decades (with the 
Governor commenting that like politicians everywhere, when budget talks come up every 3 
years, no one wants to give up any money).
	Moving onto the economy, the Governor said the only real hope for the island lies 
with building an airport, believing that the future will hold either an airport or a new 
(replacement) RMS, but not both.  Even though the two current airport proposals are 
privately-funded, he feels that in the end the airport will wind up being funded by the 
British Government, mentioning that the smaller passengers-only option isn't realistic, and 
the more-ambitious Shelco plan has been around since 1987 with nothing to show for it.  As 
far as the airport's location, it would most likely be built on Prosperous Bay Plain because of 
the 3 new wind turbines recently placed at the other possible site (Deadwood Plain).  Proud 
of opening these three turbines last year, the Governor commented that they now supply 
11% of the island's electricity.  When I asked "why not put up 30 of them then?" his reply 
was that they want to wait and see how they hold up over time... they don't want to be 100% 
dependent on the turbines as they do break down occasionally, but he seemed to indicate 
that perhaps in about 3 years some more might be put up.
	On the citizenship issue, the Governor feels as the Saints do — that they deserve to 
have their citizenship reinstated, and feels it's only a matter of time ("throwing the baby out 
with the bathwater" is how he described the law causing Saints to lose their citizenship 
when the UK Government was worried about an influx of Chinese immigrants from Hong 
Kong).  When I pressed him on why it hasn't happened this year, he said it was because of 
the current UK Government's desire to have a short legislative session in order to call new 
elections soon — and while he feels that citizenship will indeed be restored at some point, he 
doesn't believe such status would include pension schemes or social security.  With full 
citizenship however, Saints would once again have the right of abode (to live and work) in 
the UK without special permission, and when I asked the Governor if he thought there 
would be an exodus of people off the island once that happened, his reply was "perhaps from 
the young at first"... but felt that in time, most would return to build a home and settle back 
on St. Helena.
	Back to the economy, when I mentioned the inequity of the UK Government spending 
so little on one of their territories compared to the £40 million (US$60 million) a month on 
the Millennium Dome project, he once again stressed that once the airport comes, the 
island's economy will turn around.  St. Helena has a 3-day work week for people on welfare 
(a "workfare"-type program) in which you must work to receive a check... and there's a high 
unemployment rate on the island.  Currently, the highest boost to the economy are the 
remittances sent back to the island from Saints living and working overseas, but as those 
Saints become more used to life outside of St. Helena, the remittances often stop.
	Moving onto the Governor's Cup race, when I asked what all the ruckus was about, 
he commented (not realizing I was asking about the Plantation House reception) that 
Captain Roberts (the current captain on the RMS) and the Royal Cape Yacht Club both want 
control of the race, and pretty much hate each other.  When I clarified that I was referring to 
the reception given outside Plantation House under a canvus tent instead of inside the 
mansion (as has been the tradition in the past), he leaned forward, lowered his voice, and 
said "oh... well the thing was, the guest list was for 250 — and you can't fit 250 people into 
one room at Plantation House, so we had it outside..." mentioning that the Queen's birthday 
celebration was also held outside.  Though I didn't press him any further on the matter, it 
should be noted that the reception could easily have been held in more than one room, and 
that such receptions have always been held inside the mansion in the past.  I suspect 
though, that the Mrs. just didn't want people inside "her" house (the feeling had by everyone 
who took the Plantation House tour).
	As we were talking, someone came up to hand the Governor a xerox page from the 
new St. Helena News (which wasn't ready when I wanted to buy a copy).  On it were three 
op-ed letters written by Julian-Cairns Wickes (a Brit married to a Saint)... the Governor 
chuckled, saying Mr. Wickes is always writing in complaining about something.
	As the term of these British governors is short, I asked Mr. Hollamby what an ex-
Governor does once the job is finished, and his reply was that he'd probably be given 
another Foreign Office posting.  After talking with him for some time today (as well as over 
the next few weeks), I believe the Governor is a decent person — but I think one problem he 
faces in his job is his British upbringing and outlook, which seems to clash with the island 
way of life.  I honestly feel he believes he's made some good decisions for the island, but the 
Saints absolutely hate his wife, and don't have the same sense of closeness with him that 
they've had had with previous governors.  I suppose my only advice to him (which I never 
offered) would be that while I realize he's the representative of the Queen and the British 
Government, it might help if he were to go just a bit more native, mingling and mixing with 
the locals more (reflecting some of the comments made to me by Saints).
	Finishing our talk at 10:30am, it was time for a "non-denominational" (Christian) 
Sunday church service in the main lounge... and curious to see what it would be like aboard 
a ship, I decided to attend.  With about 30 other people in the room, I sat off to the side (as I 
was wearing shorts — though I noticed some others were as well), and the Governor soon 
sat down next to me with his wife.  The service was led by Captain Roberts, using small 
combination hymn/prayer books with music provided by Carl running a pre-recorded tape 
on the audio system.  At first, I couldn't see if there was actually someone playing an organ 
or not (as the RMS does have a Casio keyboard for such occasions), and as I walked up to 
ask Carl about the music afterwards, another passenger was there asking the same 
question (Carl said that once a lady thought he had been playing the organ).  Without a 
sermon, the service (which also included the 2nd mate reading a lesson) lasted 25-30 
minutes, and was over by 11:00am.
	When church was finished I walked out onto the sun deck upstairs to see the water 
in the pool splashing wildly about as the ship rocked, with the waves being rough enough 
this morning to postpone the 11:30am shuffleboard game until 4:30pm.  Having had very 
little sleep last night, I decided to go back down to the cabin and rest for a bit — only to see 
Ken still sleeping (as without a porthole, it could easily have been 3:30am in the cabin).  
Resting my eyes without sleeping, I realized my stomach was just a tad woozy — but I think 
it had more to do with the lack of sleep than the rocking of the boat, as I didn't really feel 
sick, and as soon as I had some sleep tonight it went away.  Lunch today (as would be the 
case every Sunday) was curry, and though it was quite good, there were hardly any people 
down in the galley eating.  At 4:30pm I tried my hand at shuffleboard, doing well but not 
advancing to the finals... and when it was finished, I watched the bingo game going on in the 
lounge (I didn't play).
	Dinner was light this evening, and over the meal Peter talked about Mrs. Governor 
and how bad she was during the Plantation House tour he took on Wednesday (while I was 
off doing Mike's Classical Hour).  Apparently when the Governor and his wife moved into the 
mansion, the Mrs. replaced a historic 300 year old toilet with a modern, auto-sensing one — 
and when someone on the tour asked about it, she threw up her hands and shouted "Oh 
pleeeease!  Not that!"  Peter also felt she was quite rude and standoffish, conducting most of 
the tour herself in order to keep a close watch on everyone in "her" house — and to make 
sure no one touched anything, she had a maid watching people in other rooms.  It wasn't 
just the impression Peter received either: the French gentleman with us at dinner that night 
(who had worked in Texas) had also been on the tour, and nodded his head in total 
agreement, commenting that he couldn't believe how pompous and rude she the Governor's 
wife was on the tour.
	After dinner I played some Scrabble with Peter before going up to the main lounge for 
"pub games", a collection of 3 games played in teams: a bagatels table (where you throw a 
puck through a slot for points), mini table skittles, and darts.  Because I was so tired, I 
wasn't even going to play, but in the end, decided to give it a shot.  Fritz was my partner 
tonight, and we both did exceptionally well with the darts (even with the ship rocking wildly), 
though between the three games, other teams pulled ahead of us.  Feeling extremely tired 
from the lack of sleep, I didn't even bother to stay for the final results, and headed to the 
cabin at 11:20pm.

Jan. 15: RMS
	Today was the first and only day on my entire trip where I slept right through the 
alarm — I was that tired.  When I looked at my watch, it was 8:45am and orange juice was 
already sitting out for me.  Taking a quick shower, I hurried downstairs for a late breakfast 
at 9:00am (it ends at 9:15am)... with finally some sleep, I felt much better, even though the 
waves were just as rough today.
	Walking outside after breakfast, I spotted a white tropic bird with a long, thin tail 
following alongside the RMS.  At 9:40am the Captain made a general announcement that 
the current swell and wind conditions were to continue for at least the next 24hrs, and 
advised people to have a free hand to hold onto something should the ship rock suddenly.  
He then announced that at 10:30am the crew would take part in an emergency drill using 
theatrical smoke — so not to be alarmed if you see smoke on the ship (adding that though 
it's unusual to use smoke in a drill, they were doing so due to the isolated nature of the 
RMS).  Lasting about 45 minutes, the drill wound up being the most exciting event of the 
	A bit later I played a game of Scrabble with an older Saint lady looking for a partner, 
and after lunch did some laundry while catching most of "Tea With Mussolini" in the alcove 
of the main lounge.  With there not being much to do (and with many people in their 
cabins), it was turning out to be a quiet, boring day.  After lying out in the shade on the side 
of the ship to read more "Red October", I went up to the bridge for a look around.  Captain 
Roberts was there, and I talked to him for a while about the RMS and Tristan: he mentioned 
that while some shipping traffic does pass by St. Helena (mostly between Cape Town and the 
east coast of the USA), hardly anything makes its way as far south as Tristan.  Speaking 
about the rough seas, he said the swells were pretty normal for this direction, and that the 
current wind speed was a Force 5.  Returning back down below, I watched the end of the 
bingo game (without playing) before going to dinner.
	Tonight's meal had a French theme to it, with special menus, candlelight, and French 
flags everywhere.  Though there was a fancy dress dance scheduled for tonight, I didn't feel 
much like dancing with the type of music likely to be played... so earlier in the day, I went to 
see Nigel and Carl at the purser's bureau to check out some videos, borrowing the original 
"Day of the Jackel" and a double-movie tape of "Ruthless People" and "Tin Men."  The ship 
keeps a nice collections of videos (many of which are shown publically, though you can 
borrow them to watch on your own as well), with some not even officially out on video yet 
(such as "Billy Elliot").  Nigel mentioned that as the ship gets newer videos in, they often 
donate the older ones to Tristan or the hospital on St. Helena... and seeing me, said that 
Curnow has now changed their minds regarding passengers continuing onto Tristan, 
deciding to keep us all on the ship instead of putting us up in a hotel (though I would be 
leaving the ship to stay with Kritz that night).
	Popping "Day of the Jackel" into the main lounge alcove's VCR, I watched for about 
an hour before Carl came in to tell me they needed to get the area ready for the dance.  
Putting the video aside, I watched the pre-dance fancy dress ceremony: about 20 people got 
all dressed up in self-made costumes and paraded through the lounge as the Captain 
"judged" them to find a winner (every participant won in the end though, receiving a gift 
certificate for £5/US$7.50 to use at the bar or the ship's store).  Some of the costumes were 
pretty elaborate, but my two favorites were simple yet effective: a man entered holding only a 
pint of beer and walked up to the Governor to give it to him (which he drank), calling it "The 
Governor's Cup" — and the other (which received huge laughs from everyone who knew 
about the Governor's Cup reception scandal) was a British family of 4 walking in under just 
a large white sheet labelled as "HMS Customs."
	With the parade of costumes over at 10:30pm and the dance set to begin, I walked 
upstairs to the sun lounge to finish "Day of the Jackel" on the 16:9 TV there (with only 
about 3 other people in the room, it was nice and quiet).

Jan. 16: RMS
	Though a bit cloudy this morning, I went out to lie down after breakfast, with Pat/UK 
joining me.  While relaxing, Michael "Cook" (the Saint catering head) came up to talk to me: 
a few days ago I had asked him about the possibility of taking a galley tour, and while it's 
not one of the ship's normal tours (he asked me not to tell other passengers about it due to 
there being limited space and time in the galley), said one could probably be arranged.  At 
lunch yesterday he informed me the tour would be 2:00pm today, but coming up to me this 
morning, said it now needed to be moved to 10:30am tomorrow — a shame, as with today 
looking to be quite boring again, I was really looking forward to it.  In passing, Michael told 
me that there were 14 people on this current leg who would be continuing onto Tristan 
(including myself), and that there would be about 80 more joining us in Cape Town... at first 
I was surprised, figuring that the voyage would be completely sold out (as it had to be 
scrapped last year), though I didn't take into account people booking large cabins just for 
themselves — and in the end, every cabin was indeed sold out.  Michael mentioned that the 
last time he was at Tristan the weather was so bad that people and cargo couldn't get ashore 
normally... just by chance, a navy ship was visiting as well, so the cargo was lifted by 
chopper to the island, as well as a few people lucky enough to go ahore that way.
	Flying alongside the RMS today was a different sea bird than yesterday, and I found 
out we were now about 400 miles from land.  The crew was still telling passengers of a 
noontime arrival into Cape Town, but for that to be the case, they'll have to make up more 
time at sea.  The water was still choppy, but not as bad as it has been — so perhaps a little 
time could be made up.  Instead of the daily crossword puzzle today (which was a morning 
staple with Cel, Pat/SA, and Pat/UK), there was instead a ship's "treasure hunt", in which 
many trivial questions were asked, with the answers to be found or displayed somewhere on 
the ship — and though I didn't take part in it, it kept a lot of people busy.  As the day wore 
on, people began to realize that tomorrow would be the last day of their trip (for those not 
continuing onto Tristan), and were soon jotting down each other's addresses.
	It was announced both in the Ocean Mail and later over the ship's PA that bar tabs 
were now ready for settlement at the purser's bureau, so after watching a touristy film on 
Cape Town in the sun lounge at 11:00am (out of sheer boredom), I went down to settle my 
tab: a "big" 50p/75c (for a 1/2-size can of soda water I ordered a few nights ago at dinner... 
normally I'd just pay right as I order).  While settling my account, I noticed that Nigel was 
handing out RMS/Curnow questionaires to everyone, but when I asked for one myself, was 
told that I'd receive mine when I was finished with the Tristan voyage, as I'd be continuing 
on.  Too bad, as there were a few things I wanted to comment on (all having to do with the 
office end of Curnow, not the staff or crew on board the ship) — but I would have my chance 
a few weeks later.
	As tonight would be the Captain's farewell cocktail party, I didn't want to have a large 
lunch, but of all the days not to want to eat a lot, they picked today to serve an extremely 
good lasagna (was there not a cocktail party tonight, I would have easily ordered seconds 
instead of asking for just a 1/2 serving).  There was also extremely good lemon sorbet, and it 
was fast becoming my desert of choice for most meals, even with the other wonderful choices 
being offered.
	I spent some time after lunch reading more of "Red October" out on deck in the 
shade... it was sunny but windy — and though it had been smoother earlier, the swells 
picked up again by the afternoon.
	At 4:45pm a 45 minute film about Tristan da Cunha was shown in the lounge: made 
by an Italian crew who spent 45 days on the island, the film (though a few years old by now) 
was quite interesting.  Mrs. Governor (not happy with her seat), stood up to switch with 
someone in the front row before deciding just to leave altogether halfway through the film.
	At 6:00pm the Captain's cocktail party went into full swing, and just as before, there 
was plenty of tasty fingerfood (breaded pork, weiners on toothpicks, pizza pieces, potato 
crisps, etc.) and free drinks.  Talking to some of the officers, I heard that the RMS has 
always been able to dock, get cargo, and at least some people ashore at Tristan... so I hoped 
the RMS' luck would hold.
	At 6:45pm it was time to go down for dinner (light tonight because I had eaten at the 
cocktail party).  There, Peter commented that the interview he recently had with Captain 
Roberts consisted of the Captain just talking about himself (besides Captain Roberts there is 
also Captain Smith — and in the past, a Saint named Rodney has filled in for Captain as 
well, though he's actually the 1st mate when not on vacation).
	After dinner our group went up to the main lounge to chat, and at 9:30pm the 
presentation of awards (to the winners of various events) took place, followed by a musical 
quiz — which our team actually won (finally receiving two free bottles of champagne).  
Though I generally don't like alcohol, I had a bit of the champagne to celebrate our victory as 
we talked and chatted until 11:40pm — which became 12:40am as the clocks were 
advanced one hour at midnight to return us back to Cape Town time.
	The water was once again choppy, and at the awards presentation the Captain 
mentioned that due to the weather turning rough again, we might be getting in at 12:30pm 
or later (rather than the scheduled 12:00 noon).
	While waiting for the quiz to begin, someone in the room showed us a copy of a 
propaganda-style "information" packet on the passenger-only airport proposal, meant to 
sway Saints into accepting their plan for a luxury upmarket resort hotel and golf course on 
the island.  Below are some excerpts from the packet:
	 "It is only the British Governemnt who have always believed that
	transport to St. Helena had to be a loss-making activity... the island
	will not be swamped with cheap 'package holiday' tourists at all... our
	plan envisages 204 people per week arriving by air, of whom only half are
	anticipated to be tourists who will stay in our new upmarket hotel...
	economy class airfares will be set as cheaply as feasible, roughly
	equivalent to the mid-priced cabins on the ship.  Saints will be able to
	buy special lower-priced 'Islander' fares on three routes: the flights
	to-and-from Cape Town (twice a week), Ascension (fortnightly, subject to
	landing rights being granted), and Falklands (fortnightly), with 10 out
	of 46 seats reserved for passengers paying "Islander" fares.  A return
	Islander fare to Cape Town is likely to be around £790/US$1,185, while
	a cheap RMS budget fare in a 4-berth cabin is £524/US$786... other
	planned flights (mainly aimed at the tourist market) will arrive direct
	from London (weekly), Dubai (weekly), and Bermuda (fortnightly), though
	Islander fares will not be available on these routes.  The direct return
	economy London -> St. Helena fare will be £2,750/US$4,125, though the
	cheapest way for Saints will be via Cape Town, at £1,390/US$2,085... what
	happens to the RMS is wholly a matter for the St. Helena Government..."
	 The proposed timetable outline (obviously behind schedule now) includes:
	March  2001:  appoint consultants and contractors
	April  2001:  begin construction on airport
	August 2001:  begin construction on hotel
	Dec.   2002:  hotel hand-over
	April  2003:  hotel opens to visitors
	April  2003:  first commercial flight
	 Reading this over, I couldn't help but wonder about this plan: with those Saints who 
work only earning a small daily wage, can most afford the prices being offered for the 
flights?  The idea of a passenger-only service (with no plans for cargo) seems a bit stupid, 
and the idea of building a luxury hotel and golf course makes me shudder: the people who 
visit these resorts usually have no desire to mix or mingle with locals, and I highly doubt 
anyone not directly involved with the proposed resort will see much increase in the amount 
of tourism money flowing their way.  To the Saints, transportation (whether by ship or a 
proposed airport) isn't just an afterthought, it's survival... and in the end if it is indeed the 
desire of the Saints to build an airport for themselves (with the Saints making the decision 
— as they will be the ones who will have to live with the consequences of it, good and bad), I 
hope they decide upon a general, all-purpose airport to serve their own needs first (cargo, 
medical, and tourism) above the idea of building a small airstrip merely to bring rich tourists 
to an isolated hotel and golf resort.

Jan. 17: RMS [Galley Tour] / Cape Town (South Africa)
	I didn't really sleep much during the night between the boat rocking and Ken 
snoring, but it didn't seem worth it to move to the exercise room for only a few hours... so I 
pretty much just lied there and rested my eyes.
	After a shower and breakfast I walked outside... it was sunny and windy, but no land 
was yet in sight.  Walking up to the bridge to find out what time we might arrive, the 
German guy was there already asking the same question of Jolene (the 3rd mate who re-
joined the ship on Ascension)... she didn't want to answer however, saying that the Captain 
would make an announcement soon (though a bird-watching fellow had inquired earlier and 
found out it would be 2:00pm).  Sure enough, just a bit later the Captain made an 
announcement that due to the strong winds and currents, we'd be arriving late, at around 
2:00pm.  What I didn't find out until a few hours later was that the current wasn't the only 
thing keeping us behind schedule: during the night there was yet another engine failure, 
and from 2:00am to 6:00am this morning we were down to only one engine.
	At 10:30am I went downstairs for a very interesting galley tour, conducted by one of 
the young chefs from the UK (with just myself and one other couple who had asked 
separately about a tour).  Over the next half-hour, we learned a lot about preparing food on 
the ship: the galley is just a bit smaller than the adjoining dining saloon... there are 6 chefs 
on board, and while one concentrates on salads, another will be baking — though they 
switch their duties around every week to make the job less routine... most foodstuffs come 
from South Africa or the UK, though the cheeses come solely from Britain, as they're 
generally more consistant than SA cheeses... just about all desserts except for the gateau, 
cheesecakes, sorbet and ice-creams are made fresh on the ship... the staff tries to buy both 
produce that's ripe as well as produce that's slightly underripe, as it can be 3 weeks between 
procurements... they also try to buy tuna and other fish from St. Helena... breakfast 
preparation starts at 5:00am for a few cooks (with the others coming in at 6:00am), lunch 
preparation usually goes into full swing at 11:00am, and dinner at 4:30pm — but in reality, 
meals are being prepared throughout the day (especially dinner)... the cooks don't eat 
leftovers (they work hard), and dinner for them can be late — often they're not out of the 
kitchen until 11:00pm... there's a full-time storekeeper who keeps track of supplies and can 
tell the chefs which items are about to go bad in a few days (in order to use them while 
they're still fresh)... there's over 10,000 different food items on the ship... the cooks usually 
work for 10 weeks, then receive 10 weeks off... our guide commented that it usually only 
takes a day or so before they can estimate how much of each type of food will be ordered, 
reflecting the tastes and pallates of passengers on a particular voyage, and if there's choppy 
weather outside, there will be more requests for rolls and soup, and less for veggies... there 
have been a few near misses with accidents in the past (once, a large soup pot fell over 
during a big wave), but they're very careful and know how to work on board a ship... 
foodstuffs can be thrown over the side (about the only thing allowed to be dumped at sea), 
but usually only one dustbin's worth a day, and never things such as oil or grease... the 
galley is quite small and compact, especially for the amount of food that must be prepared 
— the stove has only 6 places, but it's still enough to do the job... there is one bread oven 
which cooks 105 rolls or 12 loaves of bread in about 20 minutes, with the general daily 
bread consumption being 500 rolls and 30 loaves of bread... the chef mentioned that he'd 
like to be able to prepare certain dishes, but must cook for the people on board, telling us 
that Saints generally like basic, filling food, while Europeans and Americans often look for 
healthier, lighter meals.
	As the tour was finishing, the chef mentioned that originally with our arrival time of 
12:00 noon, there was only to be a buffet lunch served upstairs — but now that we would be 
arriving later, they were going to cook a downstairs lunch as well.  On another matter, he 
told us he had heard that the film company needed to use the ship between 9:00pm-3:00am 
	After the tour, I went up to the sun deck to jot a few notes down in the journal.  With 
land in the distance we were soon in cel phone range, and the sound of people chatting 
away soon filled the air (I borrowed Cel's phone to try calling Russell, but received only his 
answering machine).  Though we were close to land, it would still be a while before arriving 
at the docks.  Over the PA the Captain pointed out a few things, including the interesting 
phenomenon of an inversion layer off the island we were passing, as well as some whales off 
the starboard side (there was one somewhat close coming up for air).  Everywhere on the 
ship people were saying goodbye to each other and making sure addresses were jotted down.  
Borrowing Cel's cel phone again, I managed to reach Russell — who called me back with his 
wife's cel phone number (as Judith was working by the docks today, and would be able to 
pick me up).
	Wanting to use up the four 10p coins I had left, I went to play the slot machine in the 
sun lounge — and on the 3rd coin, hit PLUM-PLUM-PLUM.  With a heap of 10p coins the 
last thing I needed now (it didn't even occur to me that I could trade them in for pound 
notes), I gave them all to Cel as thanks for the use of her cel phone and the meals she had 
cooked for me.  Using the coins, Cel then tried her luck and won a jackpot as well — though 
she smartly took the coins and traded them into bills at the purser's bureau (as each pound 
was worth about 11 rand).  By this time, the rand had lowered against the dollar as well, 
with one US$1 buying R7.9.
	After a while, we sailed past Robben Island and picked up the pilot boat which would 
guide us through the dock area at 2:00pm.  As we came closer to land, it began to get much 
warmer — and soon turned into an absolutely gorgeous day with not a cloud in the sky (not 
even over Table Mountain).  We finally reached E Berth (where we would dock for the night) 
at 2:45pm, and as I was considered a "transit passenger" not needing to clear immigration, I 
was finally able to leave the ship at 3:15pm (though there were 13 of us continuing onto 
Tristan da Cunha, only myself, the Governor and his wife, and one other couple decided to 
leave the ship for the day).
	Though I didn't have to clear immigration, I did have to go through customs — first 
through a metal detector, then by walking to a makeshift area nearby where a man was 
waiting to hand-inspect my luggage — but when he saw I had only the one small bag, he 
just waved me through.
	Meeting Judith, we waited around until others began clearing immigration so she 
could say hello to a friend from church who had been on board the ship as well.  While 
waiting, I tried to find a phone but had no luck: there was a row of seven green card phones 
where the customs gentleman was standing, but they had just been set there for no 
apparent reason, and weren't actually connected.  Asking the customs officer about a phone, 
he was at a loss as to where one might be (other than to suggest walking all the way out by 
the entrance area — something I wasn't about to do in the 90F heat).
	By now Pat & Morris were off the ship, looking around for the Townhouse Hotel van 
which was supposed to meet them, but didn't show up.  As it was quite hot, Judith offered 
them a lift into town after meeting with her friends, and the four of us squeezed into her 
little Toyota to head off.  On the way to the Townhouse, Pat mentioned she wanted to have 
tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel at some point... so we made a short detour to drive onto the 
hotel grounds to show Pat & Morris where it was (of all the times I had walked between 
downtown and Oranjezeicht or Vredehoek passing the Mount Nelson Hotel, this was the first 
time I had actually entered its gates!)  From what I could see as Judith turned around 
inside, it was quite fancy — and pink!
	After dropping Pat & Morris off at the Townhouse, we drove to Shaps Cameraland — 
the store supposedly holding a used 35-105mm lens for my camera (Russell had earlier 
mentioned he had been unable to find anything else).  Inside, I purchased a replacement UV 
filter (Sigma, R220/US$27.85) and suddenly thought to ask if someone would be able to 
examine the lens and possibly repair it instead of me having to buy a new one.  Just as I 
asked, I saw that the lens they were holding for me wasn't an FD mount lens — and thus, 
wouldn't work on my camera after all.  The lady at the shop suggested (at 4:30pm) going to 
their other location a few blocks away to see someone about repairing my lens, so Judith 
and I walked to the other store.  There inside, we were told to walk just a bit futher to the 
actual shop where Shaps sends equipment out to be fixed (Cape Camera Repair, in the 
Strand Building at the corner of Strand and Long).  Walking around the corner, we entered 
the building and took the lift up to the repair shop... the secratary took the lens to a 
technician to examine, and returned saying it could be fixed by tomorrow for 
R320/US$40.51.  Leaving the lens and camera body off, we walked out hoping it would be 
fixed properly — and by tomorrow morning.
	As it was hot, I told Juidth I'd treat her to an ice-cream (I wanted one too), but not 
finding any in the area, we hopped in the car to drive out of town at 4:45pm before the 
5:00pm traffic began.  Plastered up on poles in the area was the newspaper headline that 
Laurent Kabila (President of the DRC) had been killed... asking Judith about it (as I had 
been out of the news lately), she told me there were conflicting reports, but that it seemed he 
was assasinated.
	Heading out of town, I spoke to Russell on the phone as Judith drove (there's a new 
law in South Africa against talking on a cel phone while driving)... Russell said to head to 
the False Bay Yacht Club, as when his day job (working on PBXs) was done, he was 
supposed to help out a pupil who wanted to sail in the weekly Wednesday evening race 
there.  My original plan was to treat Russell and Judith to dinner at the top of the Table 
Mountain Cable Car, but I figured there still might be time to do both.  Going towards False 
Bay there was a bit of traffic, but with school still on holiday until next week, it wasn't too 
bad getting out of the city (even with the narrow roads, it was no comparison to Los Angeles' 
rush hour).
	 Along the way we needed to stop for petrol, but Judith soon realized she had left her 
bag back at the school... so at a Total station, I gave her R50 for petrol, and picked us both 
up an ice-cream.  Outside, I also used the attached ATM to take out some rand, as well as 
make a quick call home to check my answering machine (I tried to call Kritz as well, but 
there was no answer).  Driving on, Judith popped the tape of me being interviewed by Tony 
Leo into the cassette player, but we soon started talking, so I turned it off.
	Meeting Russel at the False Bay Yacht Club at 6:00pm, we scurried into his student's 
boat, where the four of us quickly prepared for the 6:15pm race (no sooner am I off one ship 
than I'm back on another!)  Sitting outside on the tiny boat, we had to navigate around 
several buoys (markers) — though we once went too far, reaching the outer buoys meant for 
the larger boats.  There was one particular boat we were trying to beat (as it was the same 
class and type as ours), and as we tilted heavily (leaning to the side), we got soaked when 
waves would come up.  By 7:45pm (still light outside, though the sun was now behind the 
hills), boats were crossing an imaginary finish line, radioing the harbor that they had done 
so — and we soon finished second in our class.  At the finish line (just a bit out from shore) 
the wind died down completely, and a boat with no engine stood motionless, waiting for 
another boat to tow it in.  Walking around the docks later, I passed a yacht flying an 
American flag, and met a middle-aged lady from Long Beach California who, along with her 
husband, had been sailing around the world for the past 3 years.  Russell talked to her for a 
bit (about a local fellow who broadcasts on the radio for yachtsmen) before leaving to drive 
back to Kalkbay.
	Back at Russell & Judith's, I gave them the ordinance survey map of St. Helena they 
had asked for... and while they took a shower, I called both my service at home and the B&B 
(Kritz' wife answered), letting Mrs. Odendaal know I'd be arriving late and wouldn't need a 
ride.  I then called the Table Mountain Cable Car (R75/US$9.49 now) to find out what time 
the restaurant at the top closed — the recording said the last car up was at 9:00pm, but it 
was now 8:30pm, and we'd have to somehow get from Kalkbay to the cable car station in 30 
minutes.  Russell said "no way we'll make it," but Juidth said "yes, we can!" — so piling into 
the car, Judith made a go at trying to reach the base in time (driving way too fast for 
Russell).  In the end, we arrived at 9:05pm with the ticket booth closed... the cars were still 
running (as the last car down was at 10:00pm), but no one was allowed to go up any longer.  
It was worth a shot though, as it was a beautiful, warm evening with plenty of stars above 
and the city lights sparkling below.  While Russell was putting water into the car to prevent 
it from overheating, a mutual sailing friend of theirs came by, and the three started chatting 
for a bit... a few minutes later we decided to head out towards Camps Bay for dinner.
	At Camps Bay we parked the car by the water and ate at a nice restaurant called 
"Blues" (an establishment which would easily be expensive in the States, yet with the 
current exchange rate, just about all dishes were US$7.59 [R60] or less).  Walking towards 
the restaurant, it felt strange having solid ground under my feet, and I could feel myself 
swaying a bit even while standing still (almost ready to anticipate the rocking motion of the 
ship).  The restaurant was packed and noisy, but we still enjoyed a nice dinner: as it's not 
something I can often find at home, I ordered cajun ostrich (extremely tender and tasty), and 
we all split a little bit of our respective orders.  The final bill (I treated) was R197/US$24.94 
(R227/US$28.73 with tip) — very reasonable for the type of restaurant it was.
	Russell and Judith drove me back to the B&B, and we said goodbye... I'd call them 
up upon returning again from Tristan, but there wouldn't really be enough time to get 
together again.  Back at the B&B at 12:15am, I found the key (left out for me in a hidden 
place), and began sorting my pack, leaving items I wouldn't need for Tristan in a bag to keep 
at the B&B.  When finished, I took out my journal to start catching up... and after a shower, 
went to sleep at 1:30am.

Jan. 18: Cape Town / RMS
	Waking up at 7:00am today, I managed only a few hours of sleep — but at least it 
was a nice one on solid land.  Walking outside before breakfast, I decided to use the card 
phone down the road past the KwikSpar to call my dad and hear a bit of news from 
California.  I also asked him to call Malaysian Airlines to reconfirm my flight back to 
Malaysia for me, as I'd be at sea until 24hrs before, and was asked to reconfirm 3-7 days 
beforehand (normally I wouldn't bother with this, but the segment between South Africa and 
Malaysia was heavily booked).
	Over breakfast I met Kritz's wife (who made the meal this morning).   Though I had a 
lot of things I needed to take care of before re-joining the RMS this afternoon, it was hard to 
get away at first, as after breakfast Kritz wanted to play me a few Afrikaans CDs (including 
one about various rugby teams called "The Cup Is Back" and another with a male Afrikaans 
singer).  Though anxious to start the day, I knew I was staying at a B&B and not a hotel 
(where I could just scurry out the door) — and besides, Kritz and his wife were both 
extremely nice people to talk with.  It was 9:15am before I finally said goodbye (leaving with 
them the RMS St. Helena duffel to keep until I returned on Jan. 31st) as I started down the 
hill into town.
	It was turning out to be another beautiful, warm Cape Town morning (with the more 
typical cloud over Table Mountain), and the first place I stopped at was Gardens Centre... I 
wanted to pick up another Philips pocket shaver at Clicks, but the sale price (R99.95) had 
expired, and they were now back to R129.95 (US$16.45 at the current US$1=R7.9 rate).  It 
was only a matter of a few dollars though, and not thinking I'd have time later to look 
further, I bought a spare (though I should have waited: later that morning, I found them for 
R109.99/US$13.92 at GAME).  In the stationary store, I bought two fine-point black, made-
in-Spain pens that tried to copy the look of the Berol Pilot pens I was using (R2.99/US39c 
each), as well as a "Lucky 7s" lotto card — winning R3/US38c from my R2/US25c 
investment, and cashing it in.  As well, I picked up a bottle of SPF30 sunblock 
(R38.95/US$4.93) in case I ran out of what I had and needed more.
	Continuing down the hill, I once again passed the internet cafe I'd always pass 
whenever walking to-and-from town (part of the Virtual Turtle i-cafe chain: 12 Mill Street, 
next to a pharmacy and near the top of the Gardens, just down from the Mount Nelson 
Hotel)... so I decided to stop and check my email (R0.50/min with a 10 minute minimum).  
Emailing friends and family on a fast telnet connection, I also looked at some web pages 
(including the St. Helena News) — and as a friend at home turned out to be online at the 
same time, we emailed each other back and forth a few times.  In the end, I was on longer 
than planned — 40 minutes, at a cost of R20/US$2.53.
	Leaving the internet cafe, I felt as if I had wasted too much time, even though I 
enjoyed catching up on email and surfing the web.  Stopping at the nearby Engen station, I 
used the phone to reconfirm my flight with Malaysian Airlines in Cape Town, and called my 
dad back to tell him he no longer needed to do it himself.
	Walking next through the Company Gardens, I went to check out the new Jewish 
Museum (which had been closed a few weeks ago).  The museum (R20/US$2.53 entrance 
fee) is brand new (opened by Nelson Mandela on 13 December 2000), and includes both a 
look inside an old synagogue (the new one is next door), as well as a building filled with 
multimedia displays about South African Jewry.  The docents are friendly and eager to 
answer any questions you might have, and one can easily spend hours looking at the 
various exhibits.  Unfortunately I didn't have as much time as I would have liked, but I did 
learn a few things about Jews and South African history: in 1804 religious tolerance was 
allowed when the Dutch India Company lost control of the Cape... as the British began 
occupying the Cape in 1806, Jews began arriving (before, they would have had to have 
practiced the same religion as the Dutch)... in 1880, there were about 4,000 Jews (mostly 
Eastern European, though there were also British and German Jews), with many of them 
settling in District Six... by 1860, many had moved north after diamonds and gold had been 
discovered... in 1841, the first Jewish congregation was established in Johanessburg... in 
1858, the first Jew was elected to the Cape Legislative Assembly... the mayor of Cape Town 
from 1904-1907 was Jewish... around 1910 many Jews moved to Oudtshoorn (for ostrich 
farming)... in 1902, immigration laws mandated that all immigrants must be able to speak 
European languages (not Yiddish), but the law was amended in 1906 to include Yiddish... in 
1930 though, limits were placed on the number of immigrants from heavily Jewish countries 
such as Lithuania, Poland, and Russia, cutting off most Jewish immigration except from 
Germany... in 1937, a "no unassimilateable" law was passed which placed Jews in that 
catagory, effictively eliminating most Jewish immigration... for years, many Jews quietly 
accepted apartheid — but not all, and a good number of white anti-apartheid protestors 
were Jewish... and by the mid-1980s, the Jewish Board rejected apartheid openly.  The 
museum also has numerous displays and exhibits on the contributions of South African 
Jews to society, highlighting famous people in varying fields from science to entertainment 
to athletics.
	From the museum I continued down into town, as the path which cuts through 
Company Gardens becomes Adderly Street.  On the way, I stopped to call the camera shop 
to let them know I'd be in a bit later for the lens then originally planned.
	Spending some time walking around, I stopped at Hungry Lion for a soft-serve cone 
before going next door to Mr. Price, a low-cost clothing store chain.  There, I found two nice 
lightweight polo shirts with pockets (grey and aqua) for only R29.99/US$3.80 each before 
returning back to Hungry Lion for another cone.  Looking into nearby GAME (located inside 
Grand Central, behind the outdoor flower area), I saw the pocket Philips shaver for R109.99 
(oh well), though I did buy a pair of earbuds (more for the foam covers which had worn off 
on my own set than for the actual buds themselves — R17.99/US$2.28).  GAME is a very 
good store which sells everything from electronics to hardware to food, and always seems to 
be a bit cheaper (sometimes quite a bit cheaper) than their competitors.  GAME did have a 
good closeout price on a regular Philips shaver — R599.95/US$75.95 for a nice high-end 
model, but had already sold their last one, with no other GAME locations downtown.
	Continuing my walk, I stopped at a nearby pharmacy (a pharmacy is called an 
"apteek" in Afrikaans) to look into buying some motion sickness pills: I had been OK on the 
ship even during the rough return, but having been told that the waters near Tristan can be 
even worse, decided to buy some medication just in case — as it would be much cheaper 
here than seeing the doctor on the ship for a shot.  Peter had suggested "Avomene" (a South 
African medicine which had worked for him), so I bought a package for R24/US$3.04 — 
though in the end I never had to use it.
	Next, I decided to go back to the wholesale clothing area to look around... in the same 
shop where I bought three South African hats last year, I bought a souvenir South African 
cufflink (R5) for my knick-knack shelf.  As the Townhouse Hotel was close by, I stopped for a 
moment to see if Pat & Morris might be around... they had already gone out for the day, but 
I left them a "have a nice time in South Africa" note.  At the nearby City Library, I walked up 
to the music floor to see if they had any music scores for sale (as last year they were selling 
off lots of old scores for R1 each), but nothing was being sold today.
	After walking around downtown for a while enjoying the day, it was time to go to the 
camera repair shop to see about my lens.  Back at Cape Camera Repair, I tried the lens 
out... it seemed to be better, but not 100% fixed — so the technician came out to say the 
fuzziness was due to the shutter, not the lens.  I knew this wasn't true (as I've had 
reincarnations of the same camera and lens for almost 20 years), but at least it was 
somewhat better than before I brought it in.  At R320/US$40.51 it was certainly cheaper 
than trying to find a new lens, but after a few days it once again began experiencing the 
same problems (with me having to wiggle it back and forth to get rid of the blurriness), and 
bringing it in probably helped only marginally.
	It was now around 1:00pm, and there wasn't much time until I was supposed to be 
back on the RMS.  Stopping in at Muchachos for a toasted (grilled) cheese sandwich 
(R5.95/US75c), I went looking for a card phone in the area while the food was being cooked 
(as the cashier said it would take 5 minutes to prepare).  Usually green card phones are all 
over the place, but after 10 minutes of searching, I could find only one card phone in the 
area — and it wouldn't work for completing overseas calls.
	After picking up the sandwich, I headed down for the docks, and at the CalTex 
station outside the entrance, used the last of my South African coins to buy some corn chips 
and a local paper.  For some strange reason the payphones at the CalTex weren't completing 
overseas calls either (what was wrong today?), but walking around Duncan Docks, I finally 
found a working card phone.  Besides calling home one last time to check for messages, I 
also called Rikkis to see if they were still around (as I hadn't used them at all this year) — 
they were, and as well as driving you around town on the cheap, they'll also take you to the 
airport for R80.
	I arrived back at the RMS at 2:10pm, and as I was a transit passenger, didn't have to 
go through immigration.  On board, I helped show a passenger where the South African card 
phone was and how to use it before walking around the ship and talking a bit with Jenny, a 
nice Saint on staff who usually works the lounges serving tea... she mentioned that while a 
lot of the crew like and respect Captain Roberts, he's not as much of a "people person" as 
Captain Smith is, commenting that Smith will come down and chat with the passengers in 
the lounges more.  Watching a new group of passengers board the ship for another voyage, I 
commented that it must feel strange having to go through the same routine over and over for 
each sailing — for just as you start to get to know some of the passengers, they leave and a 
whole new bunch comes in... her reply was "you get used to it."
	The RMS departed 5 minutes late at 4:05pm, with the Captain deciding to sail 
around the Cape coast for a bit before heading out to sea (unlike the St. Helena runs which 
tend to be more transportation-oriented, this Tristan voyage definitely had more of a 
"pleasure" atmosphere to it).  Though I didn't need to sit through the safety and life-
preserver lecture (as I had watched it before), I did so anyway to check out the group we had 
on board this time.  Unlike the St. Helena voyage (which had a perfect mix of Saints, 
tourists, and people young and old in all different professions), this Tristan sailing was for 
the most part made up of wealthy, retired British tourists (with a few South African 
journalists along for a story).  The demeanor of the passengers on this sailing was also 
different: the Brits on board now were much less approachable than those who headed to 
St. Helena, and were more apt to show off their status in life — not exactly the type of 
personality I care for — which is why there weren't many groups formed during this sailing 
(by anyone), and why I tended to hang out mostly with the journalists.
	The Captain took us almost to the end of the Cape coastline before heading out to 
sea, affording us some nice views of various rock formations (such as the 12 Apostles) as 
well as the many small villages in the area.  While looking at the coast, I met the four South 
African journalists on board: Graham (a freelance writer on travel and wine who had taken 
the RMS to St. Helena the previous year), Neil (who brought his kayak along, hoping to 
circumnavigate the island in it), and Don and Callin, a team working for Getaway Magazine 
(a South African outdoor monthly).  After what the Tristanians considered some bad 
publicity in the past (where they were scrutinized like lab rats), the island now often 
requires journalists to receive permission before visiting... and Don mentioned that they 
would be allowed to write on the island as long as they didn't write about the people.
	Once we headed away from the coastline, I walked inside and spoke to Governor 
Hollamby for a bit, talking about what we had done for our day off.  In passing, he told me 
he would actually prefer to eat at the earlier sitting, but protocol demanded he and his wife 
eat at the later one with the Captain.  Talking about the Saints, the Governor commented 
that they always think they have it bad — but now that they have TV, they can see how 
much worse off people in other parts of the world are (such as Mozambique or other parts of 
Africa).  I then met Bryan (the Tristan Administrator), who along with his wife Liz, had been 
on a short vacation, but was now returning to the island.  Mentioning that I had tried to 
email him about staying at the guesthouse, Bryan told me his computer caught a virus, and 
he hasn't seen any email since October (they were bringing a new computer with them to 
install).  He did say that while accomodation at the guesthouse wouldn't be possible this 
time (due to others currently using it), staying on the island with a family wouldn't be a 
problem, at a rate of £20/US$30 a night.  Though I'd find out much more about Tristan over 
the next few days, I did learn a few interesting things today: there are 283 people on the 
island, with about 10 Tristanians living overseas (including Carol, one of the waitresses on 
the RMS)... Bryan mentioned that the water on the island (from natural springs) is so pure 
that it's currently being tested in South Africa with the hope of possibly bottling it for sale 
overseas... 30%-40% of Tristanians can't read or write... and about 4-5 cruise ships pass by 
the island each year.
	For dinner that night, there were three other people seated at my table: Tanya (who 
works at Curnow's Cape Town office), her husband Andre (an electrician — they were 
married a few months ago and were taking this trip as their honeymoon), and Udo, a 
German who operates hot air balloon flights 6 months a year in Germany and 6 months in 
Paarl, South Africa (he used to work on high-tension wires before turning to ballooning).  
Though they were all nice, there wasn't any sort of connection as happened with the "Table 
16" group on the St. Helena voyage, and dinnertime turned out to be pretty boring without 
much in common to discuss (until the return — when I switched tables to join some others).  
At first, Tanya kept calling me by my last name (addressing me as "Mr.") until I finally told 
her "hey, you're not working now... you're on vacation!  It's Larry!"
	After dinner I walked outside and met Simon, a Brit in his mid 30s who became 
interested in Tristan at the age of 15 by way of stamp collecting.  A while back, one of the 
island's ex-Administrators came to live in Simon's village, and ever since hearing about 
Tristan, he's wanted to visit.  Nice (if perhaps a bit overexcited), we'd hang out from time to 
time — especially as most others on the ship were retirement age and not as down-to-earth 
as Simon.  At 9:00pm we watched the last bit of light disappear at the horizon before a 
sudden bit of drizzle came from the half-cloudy sky.
	Inside the lounge, I met three interesting fellows who were visiting Tristan to help give 
the island its first telvision capability: while Tristan (like St. Helena) has had videos for 
years, there's no actual television reception on the island... so the company with the Tristan 
crayfish contract was paying for an experiment to see if any television signals could be 
picked up (eager to please, as their contract would be up for renewal soon).  Along with a 
representative of the South African-owned fishing concern was a professor from the 
University of Cape Town and an assistant (originally from Austria)... they would be setting 
up the two dishes they brought with them on the RMS (one American, one Russian).  
Unfortunately Tristan da Cunha is too far south to be able to receive the DSTV satellite 
signal (an African satellite TV service) and apparently the only signals available are the US 
military's Armed Forces Radio/TV service (asking permission to receive them garnered an 
immediate "no") or the British Armed Forces TV (who granted permission).  So the three guys 
would spend a few weeks on the island (returning on one of the fishing vessels later) setting 
up the two dishes to see what signals could be picked up.
	Talking to the satellite team, I found out for the first time that there are alternate 
ways to get to Tristan da Cunha — the South African research vessel "SA Agulhas" makes 
the trip once a year, and it's also possible to travel on one of the two fishing ships (the 
Edinburgh or the Kelso).  If you opt for a fishing ship it's extremely cheap (around US$200 
— about 1/8th the price of the RMS — lowered to US$100 if you're Tristanian), but 
arrangements must be made to see if there's space, as each carries only about 20 
passengers.  You must also follow the fishing ship's schedule, and as a tourist, are given 
lowest priority (meaning you could be stuck on the island until the following ship if enough 
islanders want to go on the current sailing, as you'll be bumped in favor of them).  As I was 
complaining that the fishing vessel sounded more like the type of boat I wanted to be on 
rather than the RMS with its shuffleboard and deck quoits, the guys invited me to return 
with them if I wanted to — but the current fishing ship wouldn't be scheduled to return to 
Cape Town until Feb. 11 — the day after I was to fly home from Malaysia (and the day I was 
to start work again in Los Angeles).
	My roommate for this voyage was an Afrikaaner man in his 50s named Willie 
(pronounced "Villie")... from Johannesburg, he worked at a mine, and seemed the most 
unlikely type of person to be on such a voyage (when I asked what prompted him to visit 
Tristan, his reply was "it's something different") — and in fact he told me that he had booked 
the trip as a last minute decision just a few days ago (otherwise I would have had the cabin 
to myself).  Though we got along OK, we didn't really click, and rarely saw too much of each 
other outside the cabin.  One problem was that he was a smoker... the RMS has no policy 
regarding smoking in the cabins, but I had requested a non-smoking roommate (even if it 
meant moving to another cabin).  When Willie booked at the last minute, I assume Tanya 
informed him about my request for a non-smoker, for he volunteered not to smoke in the 
cabin (nice of him, but he'd still go out in the middle of the night to smoke and come back 
reeking of an ashtray, making the small, enclosed cabin smell of smoke).  I certainly couldn't 
fault him for his habit, but the cabin always seemed to have a constant low-grade cigarette 
smell with him around (and just to be on the safe side, I hid the ashtray in my one lockable 
	My cabin was once again C49 — the only two-person budget cabin with a porthole.  
Being able to board the RMS earlier than others (as I didn't have to go through immigration), 
I set my things down on the top bunk... though when I later asked Willie if he'd like the top 
bunk himself, he replied that he preferred the bottom (at least that worked out).
	While wandering the halls in the evening, I actually found the one public bath on 
board that Kevin had told me about (on B level at the end of the hallway... though I didn't 
take a bath tonight, I'd use it later on the trip).  Looking in the pantry, I noticed there still 
wasn't any hot cocoa (I was hoping they'd have stocked up in Cape Town) — though when I 
asked a few days later, one of the staff managed to find a can.  With some long days with 
little sleep recently, I decided to call it a night when finished with my journal at 11:15pm.

Jan. 19: RMS [Tristan Info]
	There were two separate rattles in the cabin, and I didn't sleep much during the night 
because of them.  I can't recall hearing them when I was in the same cabin and bunk a few 
weeks earlier, so I'm not sure why I was hearing them now, except perhaps being at the end 
of the hallway the cabin was closer to the engines, and some excess vibrations might be 
causing at least one of the rattles (coming from the door area) — though the other (a rattle 
everytime the ship pitched in one direction, reliable as clockwork) was more puzzling.  
Besides the cabin noise there was my roomate Willie, who at 2:30am this morning turned on 
the light and left the cabin to smoke, returning a few minutes later smelling like an ashtray.  
With almost no sleep during the night, I was pretty much in a daze for most of the day.
	Over breakfast this morning I met more of my fellow passengers, including a retired 
747 pilot from Britain and a young Swede interested in Tristan bird life.  Tubby (the head 
waiter) repeated something others had also told me: that no one was happy with the engines 
on the ship, and hopefully they'll finally be dumped in favor of some more-reliable Japanese 
ones.  He and Michael then said that the RMS was originally meant to be 50ft longer than it 
wound up being — and because of its size being cut due to cost concerns, the pitch of the 
waves are felt much more than if it had been a larger ship.  Joining us also for breakfast 
was a vulcanologist with the British Government, who would spend a month on Tristan 
studying its volcano, trying to formulate a plan for evacuation should it erupt again (as it did 
in the 1960s).
	After breakfast I went out on deck... it was cloudy and cool, but a few people were out 
looking for birds.  On board the ship was a South African named Warham, who in exchange 
for free passage on the RMS (in a private cabin — though he received no salary), would 
conduct daily bird watchings and give lectures on various subjects about the islands.  
Unfortunately there weren't many birds out today, and Warham commented that 
countinued use of long-lined fishing nets by some countries have caused a huge decrease in 
the number of birds, including the albatross.
	Going up to the bridge for a look around, Jolene (the current 3rd mate) was on duty... 
a young, sweet soft-spoken Saint, I'd wind up talking with her quite a bit over the next two 
weeks (she had been on leave in the UK for the past 6 months, but was re-joining the ship 
with the Tristan sailing).  Hearing that I had just come back from St. Helena, she was 
curious what I thought of the island — and when I mentioned I was a musician and had met 
Eric George, she told me he had been her piano teacher when she was young, as her 
grandfather had taught Eric piano many years ago.  As she first went overseas at age 6, she 
became used to the outside world early on, but mentioned that when she goes to Cape Town 
or the UK with 16 or 17 year old first-timers who have never left St. Helena before, they can't 
believe everything the see, often wanting to do things like ride the lifts and escallators up 
and down for fun.  Jolene saw her first video when she was 6 (she's at most in her early 20s 
now), and though TV is relatively new on the island, most young Saints today have grown up 
watching videos.  Jolene has been with Curnow for 4 years, and as with most officers, is 
qualified for one level above her current status (though 3rd mate, she's qualified to handle 
the job of 2nd mate).
	From the bridge window I could see workers down below setting up mesh netting 
around the outside cargo area... Jolene said it was so people could play deck tennis there 
(even though it was quite windy), as the cargo load to Tristan was light: just some general 
cargo and a JCB (an earth-mover — what Americans would call a Catapillar).  While on the 
bridge I also asked one of the officers about the "Tristan da Cunha" kombi (van) I had seen 
at Duncan Docks, and was told it belongs to the Tristan House (a place in Cape Town run 
by a Tristanian in charge of looking after any islanders who come to South Africa for 
vacation or medical treatment, as well as buying and procuring items for the island).
	A bit later in the morning it was time for a game of deck quoits out on the funnel 
deck... I played against Governor Hollamby, and it was extremely close (he won by only one 
point).  While playing, we talked about various things, and when he found out I had 
attended Juilliard in New York, mentioned that while stationed in the city he'd park his car 
in front of the Chinese embassy across the street from Juilliard to attend the opera at 
Lincoln Center, as the car had diplomatic plates on it.  He also talked about working in 
Dallas (at the British trade office), and told some pretty good jokes.
	As today would be yet another Captain's cocktail party for me, I didn't want to eat a 
large lunch, so I decided to have three bowls of cream-of-asparagus soup (as the bowls are 
very shallow and small) and two orange sorbets, skipping the main lunch course entirely.
	For lunch I sat at a table with Susan, a nice lady who lives on a rural cattle farm in 
South Africa with her husband and son, though she was travelling alone.  Sitting there at 
the table (and for the rest of the Tristan voyage), the one thing immediately apparent was 
that just about every Brit on this trip was a non-stop talker — usually in loud, bragging 
voices.  This wasn't the case with the Brits on the recent St. Helena sailing, but almost 
without exception, these Brits just wouldn't shut up.  The poor South Africans and 
Europeans on board would sit back patiently while being bombarded with incessant brags, 
only occasionally being able to get a soft word in edgewise.  I realize that Americans can 
often be known for this as well, but perhaps being on St. Helena had put me in a mellower 
mood... sitting back and looking around at everyone on the ship, it was amazing how 
consistantly the South Africans and Europeans would partake quietly in conversation, while 
the Brits had almost a complusion to prove they were one better than the person sitting next 
to them.  This was so different than the many wonderful Brits I met on the St. Helena 
sailing, and was one of the primary reasons why people didn't form close groups on this trip 
— most were too busy trying to show off.  This is also one of the reasons I spent so much 
time talking with the crew, as other than the journalists, they were about the only real 
people on a ship filled with self-centered passengers.  I could certainly hold my own with 
these Brits in conversation, but had no desire to do so.  For instance, one older Brit was a 
self-described German-phile who would talk incessantly about everything he thought he 
knew on classical music and opera... as I'm a classically-trained violinist who plays in an 
opera orchestra, I could partake in an "I know as much as you do" conversation with him, 
though it wouldn't have given me any satisfaction or pleasure.  There was a retired pianist 
on board as well, but even with all soon "approving" of me, I could only stand so much of 
this attitude, and seeing them only occasionally throughout the day for a short conversation 
would be enough.  About the only Brits on board not pompous were the retired British 
Airways pilot, the vulcanologist, Simon, and those few who had also been on the earlier St. 
Helena sailing (a retired couple from Wales, Cecelia the flutist, and her friend John).  
Looking back, I realize that almost every person I hung out with on this voyage was either 
South African or a Saint.
	At lunch, Mrs. Governor came to sit down with us at the table.  Though she was 
eager to engage in conversation, it was almost exclusively about herself (how as a diplomat's 
wife she must do this and that)... she also ordered her food specially-prepared ("I want this, 
but put that dressing on the side... and don't pull the bread crusts off on mine...") and I 
suddenly began to feel quite sorry for the Governor.
	After lunch I went to read a bit more of "Red October"... even though the novel was 
turning out to be quite disappointing, I was determined to finish it before arriving, as I 
wanted to leave it on Tristan (figuring the island could always use another book).
	There was a bridge tour today, but even though I wanted to go on it again, didn't sign 
up in order to give those who hadn't yet been on one a chance.  Later as the tour was 
finishing though, I wandered up to the bridge for the conclusion.  Though I had heard most 
of the information before, I did learn that the ship consumes 1 ton of fuel each hour.  As the 
tour petered out, people stayed on the bridge to ask questions about Tristan... and no 
sooner did that start than other passengers eagerly began butting in to show how much they 
knew on the subject — not chiming in to be helpful, but literally yelling over each other's 
voices to make sure everyone was aware of how much they knew.  It was so loud in fact 
(especially as one gentleman had a booming operatic voice) that no one could even hear soft-
spoken Jolene as she tried to answer the questions.  Walking up to her, I asked if she could 
repeat her answer as we both smiled... she was obviously used to this.  Suddenly, hearing 
these people clawing to be heard over one another, I began to realize just how loud most 
people really are (myself included — though these Brits were definitely the extreme).  I 
suppose that's the way our society is, but seeing the ugliness of it right in front of me made 
me realize how much we all need to stand back and take a moment to reflect on how much 
bluster we can do without.
	Out on the sun deck I had a chance to meet the South African doctor and his family, 
who would be spending the next 13 months on Tristan as the island's new doctor.  An 
Afrikaaner, the doc seemed a bit aloof at first, but I think it was more the difficulty in 
understanding his English than anything else, as he and his family turned out to be quite 
friendly.  His wife is a nurse, and their two pre-teen kids (daughter and son) were extremely 
well-behaved.  The doctor was looking forward to the assignment, commenting that "it 
should be an adventure"... and when I later asked the kids how they felt about spending a 
year on a remote island, they also said they were looking forward to it — though I wonder 
how much they'll miss their friends and life at home.  While there is a school on the island, 
the mom told me she'd be home-schooling her kids instead with  a Christian method from 
the United States.  The doc mentioned that while there are usually 4-5 nurses on the island, 
2 will shortly be leaving for 6 months, and he heard one of the main problems with island 
medical care is that even if the local nurses are trained in certain things, because of the 
small island population, it may literally be years before they encounter a problem once 
trained for — and by the time it occurs years later, they'll have forgotten what to do.
	After sitting down to read a bit more and talk with Graham, I went to the ship's store, 
as it would close at 5:00pm instead of 5:30pm today due to the Captain's cocktail party.  
Inside, the store was now out of the gummy candy I liked, as Carl reminded me that they 
don't stock up in Cape Town, but only in the UK.  Disappointed, I walked back outside to 
catch up on my journal for a bit until it was time for the cocktail party.
	At the cocktail party tonight I had a chance to speak with Bryan (the current British 
Administrator on Tristan) and listen as he imparted some information on the island to eager 
ears (something I'm sure he was quite tired of doing, though he was kind enough never to 
show it): on Tristan schooling is mandatory until age 15, but stops on your 15th birthday 
(there's only one school, with 29 current pupils)... the birth rate on the island is dropping... 
last year there were 8 babies born (all girls), though previously there were 9 boys in a row... 
boys aren't as keen on leaving the island as the girls are, as the boys have a life in front of 
them they can see (fishing) so often don't take school as seriously — whereas the girls often 
realize that there isn't much on the island for them other than being a housewife and 
mother — and they know from an early age who their choices for husbands are... a few kids 
(usually girls) will go on to continue studying on St. Helena after age 15, but not many... 
there's full employment on the island: men work, and if a woman wants to work she can get 
a job too... everyone works for his/her own self: Bryan once suggested "why not build a 
dairy?", but people prefer to keep their cows as their own... still, there's a spirit of 
cooperation on Tristan, where the entire island will come out to help build someone's 
home... Bryan commented that "instead of having 10-12 close friends as I've had in previous 
postings, here I have 283 close friends" (the current population of the island)... there are a 
few ex-pats who stay on the island for longer periods of time (such as the doctor or priests) 
— and sometimes a post will remain empty for a few months between the departure of the 
old person and the arrival of the new, in which case the position is filled temporarily by a 
local layperson (as is the case with priests)... the Administrator (appointed by the Governor 
of St. Helena) usually serves for a 3-year term... as Tristan is a dependent of St. Helena, full 
British citizenship for Tristanians was stripped away in the 1980s along with the Saints, but 
the Tristanians are a more independent lot, and as there is full employment and not much 
desire to leave the island, getting their full citizenship back doesn't mean as much to 
Tristanians as it does to Saints... there's usually a weekly dance in Prince Philip Hall... the 
total yearly budget for Tristan is about £750,000/US$1,125,000 — with about £100,000 for 
medical and £60,000 for communications... Bryan mentioned that Tristanians can speak 
"normal" English (and usually do when they're around non-islanders), but amongst 
themselves speak a sort of shorthand, dropping certain words and speaking very fast... 
today's island population is still descended from the original eight women on Tristan, and 
the new doctor mentioned that close to 40% of islanders have asthma — not only from the 
harsh weather, but from heredity, traced back to two of the original eight women (sisters)... 
according to the Italian video shown a few days ago, the custom is not to get married until 
after a couple has a child, but the Administrator said this isn't always the case now, and 
when done, it's more for practicality's sake... there's a golf course on the island ("sort of", as 
Bryan put it)... the Administrator must wear several different hats: Administrator, head of 
the Government, magistrate, judge and jury... in his 3 years on the island he has tried only 
1 case... there's a jail, but it's only been used once in the last 20 years (to put a drunk in 
overnight) and there isn't any real crime other than drunkenness (Conrad, the island's one 
policeman, later told me that the prison is now stuffed with rescue equipment)... even with 
all the potato patches, the islanders don't brew their own alcohol but import it instead 
(including lots of Castle beer)... the mainstays of the economy are crayfish and postage 
stamps... there are currently 44 cars on Tristan, a sharp increase from the 6 cars registered 
in 1997... and last year, 4-5 cruise ships called on the island.
	After the cocktail party and dinner down below with Tanya, Andre, and Udo, I walked 
up to the bridge area at 8:30pm, staying for almost an hour.  At 8:45pm there was a 
beautiful sunset, and I enjoyed talking to the Saint watchman on duty outside: he's been 
with the RMS for 20 years and lives in Half Tree Hollow when not working.  While he's on 
the RMS his son watches his house, but his daughter has married and settled in the UK.  
When talked turned to his island, he told me that as much as he loves it, "you don't want to 
live on St. Helena... it's too slow, I think" — though he'll retire after a few more years and 
return there to live.
	Down below the evening's entertainment was to start at 9:30pm, but didn't actually 
get underway until almost 10:00pm.  While sitting in the smoking area of the lounge (as only 
one small section is non-smoking), two "proper" British gents came over about to light their 
cigarettes, complaining that a lady had just told them she wanted a non-smoking area on 
THIS side of the lounge instead of THAT side (and though I secretly wished the entire lounge 
could have been non-smoking myself, the lady's reaction was typical of the type of person on 
board this sailing).  Just as I was about to move to the non-smoking area myself, the two 
gents found out that the evening's entertainment was to be bingo, and said "let's leave... it's 
the lower-class that likes bingo" — and left, with their just-poured coffee on the table 
untouched.  After this wonderful display of upper-class British behavior, I decided that 
maybe I should play bingo tonight even though I hadn't planned on doing so... the £2/US$3 
book of 5 cards didn't win me any money, but was a nice way to pass the time, with Nigel 
reading off numbers while trying to make puns and jokes with them.
	Even though we'd be setting the clocks back one hour tonight I was pretty tired, and 
by 10:50pm left to get ready for bed.  As I sat on the seat in the C-deck bathroom, the 
constant drone of engine noise nearby suddenly began to wind down and stop.  Uh-oh.  
Instead of going to bed, I decided to go up to the bridge to see what was wrong.  Outside, 
tons of black soot was coming from the funnel, and around the bridge it was dark — 
completely dark.  Though I later found out that the bridge is always left dark at night as a 
safety precaution (in order to make it easier to see), it spooked me as I looked in to see 
Jolene and the Captain frantically looking around with a flashlight.  The speed indicator 
(outside and just above the port entrance door to the bridge) was reading 6.0 — less than 
half the speed we should have been going, and looking down at the water below, it was 
obvious we were now moving at a snail's pace.  Not wanting to bother the crew (as they 
looked busy enough), I stayed outside the door, though a Brit came up and walked onto the 
bridge to ask what was going on (at which point I walked in as well to hear the answer)... 
Captain Roberts admitted that yes, they had indeed lost an engine, but everything was 
under control and they were in the process of looking at it now.  When I asked if power for 
the lights comes from the engine, he said it does, but that they also have generators (as 
other than the bridge — which I later found out was supposed to be dark — all the other 
lights on the ship were working).  A few minutes later the nice retired couple from Wales 
came up as well, saying they had heard the sound of a generator cranking up.  We both 
looked up at the incredibly starry sky (even nicer up on the bridge tonight with no moon or 
lights to impair the view), but with some sudden clouds and drizzle coming by about 10 
minutes later, I decided to go back down to the cabin.  Willie (who had been asleep) was up 
now, and when I told him about the engine, he got dressed to go up and have a look himself.  
At midnight (now 11:00pm after the time change), I went up for a quick look again with 
Willie, and felt the boat now rocking quite a bit (at first I thought we had picked up speed, 
but the indicator still read just 7.0 — without much speed or working stabilizers, the swells 
could be felt quite a bit more).  Deciding to then write a bit more in my journal, I left for the 
main lounge where the scheduled dance was finished and a few people were watching "Mr. 
Holland's Opus."
	Before going to sleep I went up to the bridge for one last look... the clouds were now 
gone and the stars out once more, but little else had changed: we were still on one engine, 
and because of that, the boat was gently rocking from side to side.  Finally at 11:27pm (new 
time), the second engine started up again.
	Note: before the engine trouble, I found out that the Captain had altered course 
slightly in order to sail directly into the swells instead of their sides... all-in-all though, the 
water on this voyage would be smooth — possibly one of the smoothest sailings ever to 

Jan. 20: RMS [Bridge Tour / Tristan Info]
	Last night I took a sleeping pill, sleeping soundly for 3 hours, after which it was on-
and-off again until morning.  Deciding to do just a bit of exercise, I went on the cycle for only 
10 minutes today — and interesingly, though the ship's passengers were much older on this 
run than the St. Helena voyage, the exercise room was always much busier.
	Though it was cloudy early on, the sun soon came out, and I spent much of the 
morning talking with Susan (the South African cattle rancher) and Graham.  Though her 
farm is still active, Susan said it's on the market — but to date there have been no takers 
(though she also commented that she wouldn't know what to do with herself if they actually 
did sell it).  At 9:30am Warham held his daily morning bird-watching session for those 
interested, but no birds were yet spotted.
	Talking to the head of the satellite TV team, he showed me a printout of a weather 
map downloaded off the internet he intended to show the Captain, as with all the technology 
at the disposal of the RMS, the ship receives only the sketchy hand-drawn weather maps 
provided by the South African Weather Bureau rather than the true satellite images.  The 
RMS does connect four times a day to the internet (via satellite), and it would be quite easy 
for Curnow to send the ship a daily satellite weather map of the area they're in either by 
email or FAX — but for some reason, this isn't done (why am I not surprised?) and seems 
almost negligent on Curnow's part, especially as the hand-drawn maps (which come over the 
ship's FAX) don't seem to arrive on a regular basis and aren't always accurate.  Once the 
Captain saw the printout he was impressed, saying he'd pass the idea along — but 
something tells me two years from now nothing will have changed.  Meeting up with the new 
doctor inside, I borrowed a home video of Tristan someone had given him (filmed June-July 
2000) to watch later on.
	This morning another bridge tour was offered, and wanting to take it again to find out 
more interesting information (as well as what happened with the engines last night), I signed 
up for it.  Jolene was the presenter, and told us there was both a port engine failure as well 
as a power failure — and though the ship's generators soon kicked in, the delay caused a 
failure of the steering radar and port stabilizer.  Because of this, we were drifting off course 
last night, and steering had to be done manually in order to get back on course (though 
steering was restored after 15 minutes, it took 1.5 hours before the engine came back 
online).  As well, a ship headed from Argentina to Africa was detected on the radar last 
night, and with the RMS having major problems, they altered course in order to avoid it by 
12 miles (more than the usual amount — they also tried to reach the ship by radio, but its 
crew didn't speak English very well).  When I asked about the bridge being dark, Jolene told 
us that it's standard practice to darken the bridge at night (with light only behind a curtain 
in back where the charts are) in order to make it easier to spot other ships and debris.
	Continuing on with the general bridge tour, Jolene showed us once again the 
difference between the ship's speed gauge (with speed measured by water passing over it) 
reading 11.3, and the ship's GPS indicator (much more accurate), which read 13.2 at the 
same time.  Also, Jolene pointed out the ship's echo sounder, saying it works up to a depth 
of 1,200 meters — though according to the charts, the area we were currently passing 
through was slightly over 5,000 meters.  Asking about the stabilizers, I found out they're 7 
feet long and are either full out or full in, never half-way.
	While the tour was going on, the Captain came up to the bridge to get the targets and 
rifles for the clay pigeon shoot, and Susan jokingly asked him if there was a mutiny on 
board.  Half-laughing, the Captain went out to play with the passengers — he was definitely 
more in his element with this crowd of people than with those on the usual St. Helena run.
	Talking to Jolene after the tour, when I asked how she wound up in her current job, 
she answered that she loves the sea, and always wanted to work around it.  Originally she 
had hoped to study marine biology, but there are usually only two scholarships available for 
young Saints to continue their studies overseas (if not they must pay all expenses on their 
own — and as they currently aren't full British citizens, education for them in the UK would 
be twice the cost).  Not feeling confident that she'd be one of the two chosen, she instead 
decided to apply for the RMS... there was a notice advertising two openings on the ship for 
males (they alternate between asking for males and females, but at the time were looking for 
males), but applied anyway — and was quite surprised when she received the position to 
train for the ship.  The training took 3.5 years — half in a UK maritime school and half on a 
ship (because Curnow has only the one ship, they work out agreements with other shipping 
lines to send students onto other ships for training)... Jolene wound up spending some time 
on a dredger, a container ship, and the QE2 as well as the RMS.
	 From the shortwave radio on the bridge, I heard the BBC — and having been out of 
the news for weeks now, realized there was a distant world out there where things are much 
more complicated than on St. Helena or out at sea.  The news today: President Estrada of 
the Philippines resigned... the transfer of power in Washington DC to a new President was 
just a few hours away... and an oil tanker ran aground off the Galapagos Islands.
	For lunch I went downstairs for soup and dessert before going up for breaded veal in 
the sun lounge with the satellite gang.  I then took the home video of Tristan into the 
children's room to watch with a few other passengers... the video showed no people, but 
plenty of sights on the island, as well as pictures of the Edinburgh fishing ship.
	After the video, I went for a relaxing dip in the pool for a half-hour, trying to "swim" 
as much as I could around the tiny pool's perimeter.  Due to the ship rocking, water was 
splashing up onto the deck, and looking up at the sky, the moon seemed to move around in 
circles while I seemed to stay in the same place.  The doctor's two kids were in the pool as 
well, and when I asked them what they thought about staying on Tristan for a year, 
answered politely "it should be an adventure, sir."
	Drying off, I relaxed on the side of the ship (for shade) as I heard an announcement 
for certain staff to meet up on the bridge.  Going up myself to see what was happening, the 
Captain (in play clothes) was holding a meeting, and I was temporarily shooed away.  There 
was soon another announcement for the electrical engineer to come up, and I could only 
assume that the problems with the ship weren't yet fixed.
	As just another indication of the different type of passenger on this voyage than the 
St. Helena one, by the early afternoon there had already been two announcements for 
passengers that incoming satellite telephone calls were waiting for them.
	At 5:00pm I went into the sun lounge for a slide presentation by Warham on some of 
the various birds we would hopefully see on and around Tristan.  Though not a bird-watcher 
myself, it was nonetheless interesting, as Warham gives some great lectures.
	After dinner I went up to the bridge hoping to see the sunset, but with clouds now in 
the sky, there wasn't much of one.  After speaking to another Saint watchman, I talked with 
Andre a bit, the representative of Ovenstone (the South African company with the license to 
fish off Tristan, and the ones sponsoring the satellite TV project)... Ovenstone owns the two 
fishing vessels (the Edinburgh and the Kelso) as well as running the island's fish-processing 
plant where the crayfish is frozen and boxed... though they are paying for the satellite TV 
project, Governor Hollamby earlier suggested that they're doing it out of their own self-
interest, as they're on year 4 of a 5 year contract, with the license granting them exclusive 
rights to fish off of Tristan up for renewal next year... though Andre didn't know offhand how 
much his company pays the Tristan Government for the rights to fish in their waters, he did 
say that as well as paying the government, they also pay the fishermans' wages — a monthly 
flat rate plus commission on fish caught.  They also operate the 3 diesel generators which 
supply power to the island, and while each house used to receive only 5W of power, it's now 
15W per house — with the power staying on from 6:00am to midnight now (the government 
pays for the electricity and distributes it to the people, who pay the government for it)... 
there are no real phones on the island (on a settlement so small, why would you need any?  
You can just walk to all your fellow islanders) — and as Tristan has no country code, the 
company's telephone number is an INMARSAT "871" satellite number.  If people on the 
island wish to make a telephone call, they can go to the radio-phone operator (with a radio 
link to South Africa), though they now have the option of a more-expensive (but better 
quality) satellite call... a dentist visits the island once each year... and Ovenstone expects to 
have 100 tons of crayfish on the Edinburgh when it next leaves Tristan.
	Staying up on the bridge after Andre left, I spoke a bit more with Jolene... as it began 
to get dark, a deckhand (Jolene's cousin) came up to practice his manual steering on the 
bridge (he was in training).  Turning off the autopilot and trying to keep the course at 261, 
he did a pretty good job at the wheel (it's not just a matter of steering straight — with the 
swells, you have to constantly adjust your course).  If he did 11 hours of training (one hour 
at a time) he would qualifty for steering — and he was on his 6th hour tonight.  When I 
asked if it was difficult, he said the hardest thing was just standing in the same place for an 
hour without moving, not being able to sit.  Jolene mentioned that a few months ago a 
British passenger wanted to steer, and when another then wanted to try it, they began 
fighting over the wheel and the ship went way off course, with it being hard to pull them 
	Before dinner I sat down with the Governor and his wife for a bit, and the Mrs. began 
complaining about someone who had been smoking where they weren't supposed to.  Angry 
that none of the Saint staff would do anything about it, she leaned forward to say "the 
Saints are all afraid to speak up to a white man!" (she's from El Salvador herself).  A bit later 
while speaking to Jolene about Saint characteristics, I mentioned this to her, and she 
quietly agreed somewhat, saying that Saints don't like confrontation.
	By 9:00pm the bridge was dark, with only Jolene and myself in the room (at times I'm 
sure the open bridge policy can be a burden on the officers, but at other times, they seem to 
welcome the company... as a 4-hour shift can really seem to last forever at night when it's 
dark and you're alone).  Turning on the BBC, I heard a bit of news again: Estrada left office 
in the Philippines, and Bush had taken over as President.  Talking about some of her 
assignments aboard other ships, Jolene mentioned she'd prefer to be on a container vessel 
rather than a cruise ship, as the container crews entertain themselves, and seem more fun 
than the staff on cruise ships.
	At 9:30pm it was time for frog racing again down in the lounge.  I lost 40p on each of 
the first two races, and was once again drafted to take part in the "international" race (I 
knew it was coming and should have just left the room, but as I finally got the hang of how 
to move the frog too late the last time, I wanted to have another go at it myself).  Governor 
Hollamby was drafted as a "Saint" (as there were no Saint passengers on board), and sat 
down next to me.  In the end "Norway" won — but I actually came in 2nd.  Happy to regain 
my wounded pride, I turned in early at 11:20pm.

Jan. 21: RMS [Tristan Info]
	I had my first good night's sleep since the start of the Tristan sailing last night, 
turning out the light at 11:20pm and not waking up until 6:20am.  Going up to the exercise 
room, someone was already on the cycle... but after waiting, I managed to use it for 15 
	It was a gorgeous day today, with low swells and a clear blue sky.  Walking up to the 
bridge area before breakfast, I tried to go in for a look at an updated weather map, but the 
Captain said "no", and kept everyone out while a meeting was going on.
	In today's Ocean Mail, it was announced that Warham would be leading some guided 
walks on Tristan — both a historical walk of the Edinburgh settlement, as well as a walk 
down to the seals and penguins.  Speaking with him outside the bridge, Warham said that 
while he'd be happy to have me along, I'd probably be better off on my own — as they'd be 
going at a snail's pace due to all the old ladies on board (he himself was retired, but in 
excellent shape).  Saying his "old lady" walks would eat up too much valuable time, he 
volunteered to show me where to go beforehand and answer any questions I might have.
	After breakfast I went out on deck to do a bit of reading, also finding out what the all-
important meeting on the bridge was about: there had been more engine problems, and at 
8:45am the Captain was on the ship's PA informing passengers that due to "serious 
problems" with the port engine cylinder head, they'd be stopping the engine for 6-12 hours 
in order to attempt repairs on it out at sea.  With only one engine, our top speed would be 7 
knots — so our arrival time at Tristan was now scheduled for noon on Tuesday instead of 
7:00am (a lie, for unless extra time was made up, 6-12 hours would be 1:00pm-7:00pm, not 
noon).  The Captain assured us we'd still have the same amount of time on the island as if 
the engines hadn't given any trouble, but I think at this point he was exaggerating.  When 
finished with Tristan, the ship was scheduled to do a sail-by down at Gough Island before 
returning back to Cape Town, and I soon hoped that if worse came to worse, the Captain 
would give up on Gough in favor of enough time on Tristan (which is after all what everyone 
was on board for) — though I doubted this by-the-book Captain would do it.  At exactly 
9:00am, the port engine was turned off.
	After the announcement I went down to the copy room near the purser's bureau to 
copy the Edinburgh sections of a large Tristan map the vulcanologist had lent me.  A bit 
later (once the bureau had opened) I went down again to sign the required indemnity form 
which all passengers who wish to disembark onto Tristan must sign.  Back out on deck, 
birds were being spotted (including a few petrels and an albatross), and there was an 
interesting sight down on the poop deck: fishing lines.  In his announcement earlier, the 
Captain commented that the "bright side" to the engine failure was that with our new slower 
speed, they'd put out some fishing lines to try to catch some fish.  Two lines were cast out 
into the sea, but even at our slow speed, the one engine still made enough wake to scare 
away the fish, and nothing was caught.
	Out on deck, I talked with the vulcanologist for a bit, missing the church service... 
he's been sent around the world to look at various volcanos, and had a beef about 
sensationalist TV news coverage scaring people and taking answers out of context.
	At 11:15am there was a meeting to discuss some of the various tours to be offered on 
the island... afterwards, the Administrator's wife Liz stood up and kindly offered her house 
as an available loo or watering station for anyone who needs it, as there's only one public 
bathroom on the island (though if one really needs to go, I found that the Catholic Church 
has a nice, clean bathroom as well).  Bryan (the Administrator) then stood up and gave a bit 
of information: there are no credit cards accepted on the island (they tried to look into them 
on a limited basis like St. Helena, but the credit card companies require charges to be 
cleared within 30 days — something impossible to do on Tristan right now)... there is no 
special Tristan money, and the pound (British, St. Helenan, or Ascension) is what's used on 
the island... you can change travellers checks (pounds, rand or US$) at the government 
office... and there's a 9-hole "golf course" on the island, though Bryan commented that you 
must "share it with the cows" — it's a par 36 for 9 holes.
	Speaking to Bryan this morning, he had changed his mind regarding people staying 
overnight on the island, telling me that while it was still OK with him, the Captain didn't 
want anyone staying over.  However the four journalists were being allowed to stay (as well 
as the Governor and his party), and when I commented that "the journalists and Governor 
will need to get back on the RMS... 25 people can fit in the launch and only a handful have 
asked about staying on the island... I don't see the problem", he just shrugged and said it 
was the Captain's decision.  When I later talked to Graham about this, he felt really bad for 
me — especially when I told him that had I wanted to, I could have truthfully said I was a 
journalist myself, as I've been a contributing writer for a magazine in the past (concerning 
animation, not travel — but it still makes me a published journalist).  Relating some stories 
of how he had fudged his own credentials in the past (it's part of the job), Graham 
commisserated with me... but in the end, it appeared my unwillingness to stretch the truth 
would keep me from staying on the island (I couldn't very well go up to Bryan now and say 
"I'm a journalist too!" after it had been made clear that only journalists would be allowed to 
stay on the island).  The Captain's arguement was that the weather on Tristan can change 
very fast (true), and if it were to start turning bad and the ship had to leave, the less people 
on the island the better — but only a few of us had asked about staying on the island, with 
only myself and Simon continuing to inquire.
	Sunday was curry day again for lunch, and afterwards I walked back out onto the 
deck, spotting a wandering albatross and some petrels.  Going up to the bridge, I noticed 
that our speed (according to the more-accurate GPS indicator) was currently 10.2 with still 
just one engine (the Saint officer mentioned you could actually go as fast as 12-13 knots on 
one engine if you really want to push it).
	In the afternoon I had a chat with Bryan, who graciously sat down with me to answer 
my questions about Tristan da Cunha — and my "10 minutes" soon turned into two hours: 
the Administrator's term is usually 2 years of actual island time — though it can be 
extended to 3 years (which Bryan did).  He and his wife Liz have now been on Tristan for 3 
years, but still have about 5-6 months left due to them taking some vacations.  Though they 
have both loved Tristan and its people, their next posting will be on the Solomon Islands... 
when I asked about the islanders' reported dislike of journalists, Bryan said it was 
exaggerated, but that about 10 years ago they felt some journalists had mis-represented life 
on the island, and since then, have been more cautious about which journalists they allow 
and what can and cannot be covered (likewise, many must now pay a hefty price for a 
limited number of journalist permits — though not all needed them, apparently).  The 
islanders don't have any problem with people reporting on the island, but when reporters try 
to put the Tristanians themselves under a magnifying glass, they get upset... all the 
islanders can be traced back to 8 original women... until recently there have been only 7 
family names on Tristan, and every Tristanian is either a Hagen or Rodgers (descendants of 
American whalers), Lavarello or Repetto (Italian), Swain (British), Glass (Scottish), or Green 
(Dutch — originally Groen).  However there is now an 8th name on the island — Elsmore: a 
while back, a young Tristanian lady (a Repetto) left the island for the UK, where she lived 
and eventually married a Brit named John Elsmore.  Two years ago, they decided to come 
back with their daughter to live on Tristan, bringing with them the island's 8th name.
	Tristan is a volcanic island, and in October 1961 an offshoot of the volcano near the 
settlement (not the large cone itself) erupted, forcing the islanders to flee and eventually 
wind up in London.  After spending 18 months in "civilization", virtually all islanders 
decided to return to Tristan, with only a few then going back to the UK later (most of the 
original thatched-roof homes were destroyed by the volcano, and now only metal-roof homes 
exist)... there's no drug problem on Tristan, though sometimes people can drink a bit too 
much... as the Administrator, Bryan must wear several different hats, including being the 
official representative of the Queen, the person who registers births and deaths, the 
magistrate, and the coronor... in his 3 years on the island there have been 7 deaths, 9 births 
(with 2 more on the way), and 2 weddings... the doctor (always an ex-pat) stays on the island 
for his contracted time, though there are local Tristanian nurses... a dental team visits once 
a year, an optician from the UK visits once every 2 years, and they're usually the same 
people each time... all medical care on the island is free... there are no taxes on Tristan... 
having a child before getting married really isn't common anymore, though couples do live 
together before marriage, as a wedding is quite a big deal and a priest is not always on the 
island... with family planning (an economic and physical necessity due to the small amount 
of livable space on the island), the size of families are much smaller than they used to be (no 
more families with 6-9 kids)... not too many new homes are built, but often new families will 
either refurbish empty houses or add onto existing homes... the gaps between priests can be 
long, so a local lay priest will lead services until a new one arrives or the old one returns (a 
priest will usually stay for a few years).  Though there is currently no priest on the island 
(the old one left last year), the new one will be arriving in 2 months... there's an unwritten 
rule to discourage marriage between first cousins... one problem with living in such a small, 
isolated community is that you're always seeing the same people all the time — grudges can 
happen, but not often, as they know the must all live with each other everyday... the island 
follows both UK and St. Helena laws as well as its own: you must be 18 to enter a pub, 18 
for marriage without parental consent, and 16 for marriage with consent.
	The school currently has 29 pupils, with 6-7 teachers (all locals) in 4 classes — which 
means each class might contain kids 3-4 years apart in age.  The local teachers are sent to 
the UK for training, and besides the usual subjects, kids take a "Tristan Studies" class.  
Schooling ends when a child hits his 15th birthday, after which there is a youth 
employment scheme for a year to allow kids to see if they like a particular job (with them 
deciding when the year is finished) — or if they're the top of their class, 1-2 kids will be sent 
off to St. Helena to continue their studies at Prince Andrew School (paid for by the Tristan 
Government).  If those few still have the grades and desire to continue, they can then attend 
Denstone College for college matric, as the school has a scholarship program for Tristanian 
students (usually about 1 student every 3 years winds up going this far).  From there, 
there's always the possibility of attending a university, but to date, it hasn't happened yet.
	Ovenstone (the South African company with the rights to fish off Tristan) has two 
vessels: the Kelso and the Edinburgh, with a total of 6 roundtrip voyages a year (the 
islanders can use them for transportation to-and-from Cape Town if necessary).  Ovenstone 
owns the diesel electricity generators, but the government buys the power from them and 
people pay the government for the power (available from 6:00am to midnight)... for crayfish, 
Ovenstone pays a nice royalty fee to the islanders whether fish is caught or not 
(US$300,000/year), as well as a small percentage of the profits.  Last year the island made 
almost the opposite agreement with a New Zealand company interested in whitefish, opting 
for a smaller up-front royalty, but a larger share of the profits.
	The Tristan Government's budget is £650,000/US$975,000 a year, basically coming 
from fishing fees and overseas postage stamp sales, as well as interest from a savings 
account the island keeps in the UK (a £3/US$4.5 million reserve in a managed fund which 
the island has built up over the years).  Though the island uses the interest, they rarely dip 
into the principal — though they have done so recently in order to help finance the building 
of a new harbor: the old harbor was built in 1963 when the islanders returned after the 
volcano, but it's not very good, and can only be used about 60 days a year.  There was an 
attempt to expand the harbor in 1995, but it only made matters worse — so now the plan is 
to break through the sand to a shallow inland pond area and build a new breakwater (which 
will curve around to protect the launches), with half of it resting on the current reef, and the 
other half resting in the deep water.  It will take at least 3-4 years to complete, as it will 
require at least 18 months to build the large cement "X" blocks needed for the breakwater 
(the plan is to mix 20% of a special type of local volcanic ash with imported cement, but it 
will still be an enormous undertaking, with 300,000 tons of cement needing to be sent from 
Cape Town).  The island has assembled a workforce of 12 people working 9-5 daily to build 
the blocks... they're mostly retired pensioners (who will receive extra pay for their work), as 
it's important that fishermen not be distracted from their fishing duties (back in 1995 the 
islanders stopped fishing in order to work on harbor improvements, allowing others to come 
in to fish — but it was a big mistake, as there was a lot of overfishing).
	Besides the RMS, the SA Agulhas research vessel, and the two fishing ships, about 4-
5 cruise ships a year call on Tristan, with most stopping for 1-2 days... budget negotiations 
on the island are quite easy, as the island is self-supporting with the fishing royalties and 
high interest from the £3 million... there are 5 working satellite phones on the island, with 
the first having arrived in 1994 (before which only radio was used): 2 lines on INMARSAT "A" 
(including the one internet account for the island, as this is the fastest — albeit most 
expensive connection), 2 "M" suitcase phones, and 1 "Mini M" phone (the local payphone).  If 
someone wants to call overseas, they have a choice of using the radiophone to Cape Town 
(cheap, but crackly and not private), the Mini M phone (at US$2.56/min) or using 
INMARSAT "A" (£4-£5/min).
	While St. Helena has a high unemployment rate, there is full employment on Tristan 
(seen to by the Island Council).  The Council is made up of 11 members (8 elected and 3 
appointed), of which at least one must be a woman (though Bryan was happy to see a few 
women on the Council) — the one who receives the most votes (and opts to take on the job) 
is appointed Chief Islander (currently Jimmy Glass).  Members serve a 3 year term, the 
Council has 6 committees (Education, Health, Agriculture, Natural Resources, etc.) which 
advise it, and each October the 11 different government departments submit what they need 
to the Council and Administrator for approval... all in all, 140 people work for the 
government at least part time, 25 work at the fish factory full time (about 100 more join in 
on fishing days), and the rest are pensioners, teachers, housewives or kids... 25% of the 
island population is over 65, there are 29 pupils in school, and 10 children below school age 
(Tristanians often live very long lives — one need only to look at the dates on the tombstones 
to see this).  There's currently a 5:1 imbalance between 18-25 year old guys and gals, with 
12 guys for every 2-3 gals.  Generally, the boys can see a future for themselves fishing, but 
many bright girls want to leave, as they realize all that awaits them is being a housewife or 
perhaps having a part-time job — and they've known their choices for husbands since they 
were kids (however there's no divorce on Tristan).  Those families with relatives in the UK 
help the Tristanians who want to leave, but as with the Saints, they currently don't have full 
citizenship status... and there are 5 places a year available for a 3-year job stint in the UK.
	Believe it or not, Tristanians do have holiday homes to escape to outside the 
settlement: out by the potato patches are plenty of small sheds which can be used either for 
storing equipment or spending a little time in (one even had an antenna to receive the local 
radio station).  As well, many islanders have holiday homes on Nightingale Island (shelter 
that could also be used in the event of another volcanic eruption), though it can sometimes 
be difficult to get ashore there... the island has mice and rats, but no bees, so there is no 
pollination for plants... gas is used for heat rather than wood, as there's not much forest on 
the island (there are trees, but no large-scale forest areas)... there's no vet on Tristan, but 
there is a self-taught lay vet who helps out with the cows and sheep.
	While the island once had a tradition of music, there's very little left today except for 
the CD/stereo.  A few people play the squeeze-box, but most prefer country music from CDs 
or listening to the island's one radio station (Radio Tristan, 93.5 FM)... there's not too much 
sports activity on the island, as most spare time is spent subsistence farming — and with 
such a small population they must be careful not to hurt themselves (no rugby games!)  
There are some sports played though, including football (soccer) and rounders (like baseball, 
but you kick the ball), with a sports day being held once a year.  People don't walk for 
exercise, as they get enough of it working, tending to their sheep, cows, or potato patches 
(though they can drive or take a bus out to the patches, the bus doesn't allow you to carry 
your produce on board)... Bryan mentioned that one 15yr-old Tristanian seeing Cape Town 
for the first time commented that it was so large — and was awed by all the lights at night... 
as the island has limited space and resources, immigration to Tristan is discouraged and 
extremely rare (all kinds of hurdles are put in place, even for a spouse married to a 
Tristanian).  Though permanent immigration is discouraged, the island does welcome both 
short and long term visitors (with Bryan mentioning that the island is available for any 
brillant eccentrics who want to escape the world for a bit)... in 1997 there were only 6 cars 
on the island, but today there are 44.  Though there aren't many places to drive, it's still 
convenient when going to-and-from the patches, and as the islanders' prosperity has 
increased, so has the number of cars (apparently youngsters like to drive along the beach 
and blast their stereos).
	Due to the limited space on the island, each house is allowed only 2 cows and 7 
sheep in the prime pasture areas near the settlement (you can have more animals elsewhere 
on the island, but you're limited to those numbers for the prime areas).  Everyone looks after 
their own meat requirements, with cows providing meat and milk and sheep providing meat 
and wool (a favorite pastime among Tristan women is knitting)... world-famous Tristan 
stamps are designed on Tristan but printed in England — and the island sells more stamps 
than any of the other 30 countries the Crown Agent deals with... if there's a medical 
emergency, someone will send out an SOS to a passing ship.  18 months ago, a young lady 
had a problem with kidney stones which needed to be treated off the island.  A cruise ship to 
the Falklands stopped to take her towards the Falklands — but as she became worse, a 
convoy of 2 other ships from the Falklands (with choppers) went to meet the cruise ship 
halfway.  At 800 miles out, the chopper landed on the cruise ship in a storm to pick her up, 
take her to the first ship, refuel, continue onto the second ship, refuel, and finally make it to 
the Falklands — from which point she was airlifted to the UK.  Another case was when a 
man's diaphram split (with a fishing boat taking him to Cape Town), but thankfully both 
patients are now OK.
	Tristan da Cunha is the remotest inhabited island in the world, having an area of 38 
square miles... the island flag is the union jack with a fishing ship in the middle...  the 
potatoes in the patches are normal white ones, not yams... the island's one store is a co-op 
type venture: overseen by the government, people can sell various items in it, but no one 
person owns it or makes a profit from running it... with temperatures ranging from 4-26C, 
the island receives an average rainfall of 66 inches per year... the volcanic peak of the island 
is 6,760ft (2,060m), but there's a plateau on the way up (known as "The Base") which is 
about 2,000ft (600m)... the animals generally graze in the area along the coast and around 
the settlement... Prince Philip Hall is the social center of the island, with both a pub and a 
large multi-purpose room (where indoor sports and the weekly dance are held).  As well, 
there is one cafe, an outdoor swimming pool, a library, a gym (opened in 1998), and plans 
for an adult education center... finally, Governor Hollamby decided not to bring the 
traditional fancy white uniform with him for his ceremonial duties on Tristan, thinking it 
was too silly.
	 Up on the bridge earlier, Jolene mentioned that the Captain was going to partake in 
deck tennis (using quoits, not tennis balls) at 2:30pm... I was interested in having a peek, 
but because of my long talk with Bryan, missed it (that's alright — I learned an incredible 
amount from Bryan, and thanked him sincerely for his time, as I'm sure he must get tired of 
quoting the same figures and answering the same questions each time he meets someone 
new).  After we were done, I spent some time copying down all the information he gave me 
into my journal before attending a slide show on the history of Tristan given by Warham at 
	On a beautiful evening outside after dinner, I spotted some birds with Warham before 
heading up to the bridge to hang out and talk with Jolene again (who pointed out a cold 
front ahead to the side, but said we'd miss it).  Very sweet and easy to talk to, Jolene said 
she missed real homemade St. Helena food, as the meals on the ship were wonderful but 
usually not authentic St. Helena cuisine.  When I mentioned to her what Mrs. Governor had 
said yesterday (about how Saints will never stand up to a white person), she replied "yes... 
most Saints don't want to be impolite," but then laughed and added "well, not always me..." 
(being modest).  Because of the clouds in the distance there was no sunset, but it was still a 
beautiful evening, and Venus could be seen shining brightly up in the sky.
	At 9:20pm I went down to the lounge for a quiz and darts game.  At 9:45pm the 
second engine was restarted (almost 13 hours later), with the Captain announcing the 
restart at 9:49pm.  When finished in the lounge, I went up to the dark bridge area to look at 
the stars up in the clear sky.  Jolene pointed out Sirrus as well as Orion's Belt, and we 
talked for a while: her boyfriend is on board with her now (as the RMS allows spouses and 
boyfriends to be on board, where some ships don't), and walking back down, I noticed that 
the decks were somewhat wet, and wasn't sure if they had just been cleaned, or if it was due 
to sea spray.  Finally, the clocks would be retarded by an hour to GMT/Tristan time tonight.

Jan. 22: RMS [Tristan Info]
	Willie was up at 3:00am from the ship rocking, and woke me up.  As I was only able 
to fall back to sleep for an hour or so, I decided to get up early and head for the exercise and 
laundry rooms.  Afterwards, I ate a quick breakfast upstairs so I could be in the front of the 
line when launch numbers were handed out between 9:00am-10:00am (as you leave the 
RMS for Tristan in order of your launch number).
	Going downstairs to the purser's bureau at 8:30am, I was first in line — though 
Simon and a few others soon joined me in waiting for their launch numbers as well.  A little 
after 9:00am Nigel opened the bureau and began handing them out... though I was first in 
line, I received #23 (with #1-#22 set aside for the Governor's party, the journalists, and the 
other official passengers) — and though each launch can hold 25 people, I was given launch 
	Due to the rain outside, the morning's shuffleboard game was cancelled, but through 
the drizzle I spotted more albatrosses (it was now quite common to see one or two flying 
around the ship, either out in the distance, or directly overhead).  Going inside due to the 
cool weather, I asked one of the Saint staff if there was any hot chocolate left (as I couldn't 
find any in the pantries)... I was told to ask Pat (another Saint), and she showed me a large 
container of the stuff.  As I was the only person on board to ask for it, Pat offered to give me 
the entire can to keep, but not wanting to be selfish, I had her put it behind the bar in the 
sun lounge in case anyone else wanted some.
	Some more Tristan information: there are rats on the island (brought over on an old 
shipwrecked vessel), and Tristanians have an annual "ratting day" each March — it's a 
public holiday when, for 24hrs, the male islanders divide into teams and go out to try to 
bring back as many rats as they can.  Prizes are awarded for various catches, including the 
largest, shortest, longest tail, etc. — and lots of drinking and merriment goes on during the 
period.  Sometimes people attempt to cheat (such as by putting one in a microwave to 
straighten its tail), so the doctor is usually called upon to verify that the rat wasn't caught 
before the actual start of the event (which runs from midnight to midnight)... on the other 
side of the island is an apple orchard — though it's basically just a few apple trees.  It was 
started by an ex-pat who once lived on the island, but is no longer kept up — though people 
will occasionally go out to the area to see if there are any apples... each family has its own 
potato patch and shed, with the potatoes used to feed both the islanders and cattle... the 
current quota for Ovenstone is 323 tons of crayfish a year, with most being exported to 
Japan (where they prefer them whole) or the United States... the levy on alcohol basically 
pays for the store's upkeep on the island — so as Chief Islander Jimmy Glass later said, 
drinking is somewhat patriotic... there was a recent election (in October 2000) and many 
new faces are on the Council... about 30 years ago, a wind turbine (for power) was built, but 
because the technology back then wasn't as good as it is today, it broke — and now if you 
mention the idea of building another turbine, locals reply "we already did that, but it blew 
away"... fish caught on fishing days go to the island quota, but anyone can go out on a 
normal day and catch fish for themselves... on fishing days, those who hold down other jobs 
(as many fishermen do) leave to go fishing, with the day's labor being paid for by 
Ovenstone... Ovenstone operates the two large fishing vessels (Kelso and Edinburgh), while 
the locals go out in their own small boats (traditionally they used to be longboats, though 
today they're a bit more modern).
	This morning I talked a bit with the vulcanologist again, who mentioned that in 
September an international team will come to both Tristan da Cunha and St. Helena in 
order to set up sensors to monitor the international nuclear test ban treaty... the water on 
Tristan is incredibly pure (it really is!) and the government is looking into the possibility of 
bottling it and selling it overseas — the South African Bureau of Standards is currently 
analyzing the water in South Africa, and if the plan is given a green light, it would eventually 
be bottled right at the source on Tristan... drunk driving is a problem on the island with all 
the cars now, and there was a serious accident recently... barter happens from time to time, 
not only among islanders but with outsiders as well: recently, the Administrator waived all 
landing fees for a ship in exchange for some flour when the island ran out.
	 After taking a picture of Jolene up on the bridge, I went down to the ship's store to 
buy some Tristan postcards — but by now, there was only one type left.  Still, I bought a few 
and stamped one with a souvenir RMS Tristan stamp... though I could buy a St. Helena 
stamp and drop it in the mail slot next to the purser's bureau, I decided to hang onto the 
postcard, buy a Tristan stamp on the island, and mail it from there (though it would still be 
carried aboard the RMS back to Cape Town).
	At the purser's bureau I realized that the best way to get extra cash wasn't by 
exchanging travellers checks at the ship's horrible exchange rate, but by doing a cash 
advance on the Visa (especially as I had pre-paid my credit card before leaving, figuring that 
I'd be doing this).  Though I knew I could exchange travellers checks on the island itself (at a 
decent rate at the government office), I nonetheless decided to take out £70/US$105 from 
my Visa (paying the small 70p commission in cash) in case I wanted to buy a sweater or 
other similar souvenir on the island.  As well, a few days ago I asked Nigel if he could find 
me a small notepad (as the last of my two mini pocket "Pooh" pads was half used by now) — 
and this morning, he managed to track two down for me (a full-sized pad and a small 
pocked-sized red one).  When I asked how much, Nigel said if I wanted smaller one just to 
take it... if I wanted the larger one, just put something in the charity jar.  Wanting the 
smallest one possible, I took the red one — but as far as the charity jar, I'd always make it a 
habit to drop extra coins into the jar when changing currencies or disembarking.
	Going upstairs onto the bridge, I talked with Andrew (the Saint 2nd mate) for a bit 
about everything from the recent US election to Governor Hollamby. His take on the 
Governor was that he was a nice enough guy, but that previous ones used to mix with the 
islanders more, playing football, going out sailing, and playing cricket with them, whereas 
Governor Hollamby generally tended to keep to himself.
	At 1:30pm I went down to see the showing a video (belonging to Bryan) on the recent 
November 2000 rescue of South African fishermen off of Gough Island.  Though Gough is 
British, the only presence on the island is a South African weather station (for which the 
South African Government pays the British Government £1 a year).  Some South African 
fishermen from the Edinburgh went out in small boats during bad weather... one of the 
boats capsized, killing one of the fishermen (the other was able to make it to shore on Gough 
Island) — but due to the harsh weather, people from the weather station were unable to 
make it down to where the stranded fisherman was (there's no infrastructure on the island 
other than the weather station complex itself).  Another boat then went out to try to rescue 
the first fisherman — and the same thing happened, with another person dying, and two 
more making it to shore.  With two fishermen now dead and three stranded on Gough 
Island, the ones who had made it to shore survived by eating penguin eggs for two weeks 
until a South African naval vessel (the SA Protea) could be dispatched to rescue them, using 
their on-board helicoptors.  The program was shown on South African TV, and had 
interviews with the crew of the SA Protea, the fisherman — and even showed Andre (the 
Ovenstone representative currenly on board the RMS) in the background.  In the end, two of 
the three fishermen went back on the Protea, while the third opted to return to work on the 
Edinburgh right away.
	When the video was done I left to go outside and finally finish reading "Red October."  
Afterwards, I looked out at some of the birds (albatrosses and petrels) flying behind the ship 
(one albatross just settled and sat on the water, looking much like a duck).
	At 5:00pm I went inside the sun lounge for an excellent BBC video on Tristan entitled 
"Forgotten Island" (it was so good in fact that I later asked Geoff the head purser if it was 
available for purchase — he didn't think so, as it was loaned to them with permission).  The 
video was made by a Tristanian lady who left the island in the 1980s and returned for a visit 
in 1997... as it was shot by an islander, it was full of interviews and personal accounts of 
her friends and family, being both insightful yet light (narrating, the lady joked that they 
didn't actually all marry their first cousins as many people believe).  The video featured 
many of the people I'd soon meet on the island (including Conrad, the island's one 
policeman), and is probably the most accurate account of life on the island available on 
video if one can get ahold of it.  Some information from the video: there's no postal delivery 
on Tristan, so when a ship arrives with mail, people go and wait for their names to be 
called... on fishing days, women wait at the harbor and knit... each Saturday just about 
everyone goes out to the potato patches to work (located 2.5 miles from Edinburgh).
	After the video, Geoff went over some general information for tomorrow: it would cost 
£10/US$15 for a landing permit to go ashore (if you didn't wish to disembark, paying £10 
would enable you to get your passport stamped)... then Captain Roberts addressed the 
crowd on the difficulty of disembarking at Tristan: a rope ladder must usually be used, and 
he warned that those not capable or nimble enough should stay on board the ship.  His 
briefing was a masterful performance, given as only a Brit with a sense of theatrical flair 
could: a mixture of information and humor, he successfully managed to get across to the 
(mostly elderly) passengers the real danger posed by trying to disembark at Tristan (with the 
rope ladder, the swells which cause the launches to bob up and down wildly, etc.) — and 
mentioned that the final decision of who could and couldn't go would rest with him.  It was 
such a perfect performance for the crowd that I wasn't the only one impressed — as soon as 
it was done, I spotted Graham, and the first words out of both of our mouths was "boy, he 
really did a great job on THAT speech!"  Afterwards, there were some ridiculous questions 
from the audience, including one from a crazy old Scottish lady who asked "can I wear my 
rings when I disembark?"  Of the 75 unofficial visitors on board, 70 had requested to 
disembark, yet certainly all would not be able to go, as many were over 80 and in no 
condition physically to attempt anything like a rope ladder.
	When the speech was finished, I approached Bryan once more to find out if anything 
had changed about staying on the island.  Asking as nicely as I could (as I hated to be so 
tenacious), I nevertheless knew that if I didn't ask, nothing would change.  Bryan looked at 
me and said "it's not up to me... ask the Captain" — but by then, the Captain had already 
left.  Seeing Nigel, I stopped to ask if he'd be able to speak to the Captain about staying 
ashore — and his response was "oh yes, it's OK... as long as you have a place to stay.  After 
all, we have to get the Governor back on board."  Saying he'd check with the Captain to 
make sure, he didn't think it would be a problem — and I was now hoping that it wasn't too 
late, even if permission was received.
	After dinner I went up to the bridge, where Andrew suddenly said "so Larry, I hear 
you're going to stay on Tristan for a couple of days..."  Stunned, I answered "I am?" — to 
which he replied "that's what I heard..." (I explained to Andrew that I had requested it, but 
still hadn't been given permission directly).  With nothing but this on my mind for the next 
couple of hours, I was ecstatic when Nigel came up to me at 9:15pm to say the Captain had 
given me permission to stay on the island.  Great!  But now the problem was that Bryan 
needed to know so he could find me a place to stay.  Nigel said not to worry, that tomorrow 
morning would be enough time — but I didn't quite believe him, as already the Governor 
was in his room packing, with bags needing to be ready by breakfast tomorrow.  For the 
next 20 minutes or so I combed the ship searching for Bryan, but had no luck.  While 
passing the Governor, he mentioned Bryan was headed upstairs — but he must have been 
watching the video in the darkened lounge, as I couldn't find him anywhere else.  Not being 
able to locate him, I decided to watch the movie myself ("Billy Elliot"), though it was hard to 
keep my mind on anything other than going ashore.  When the movie was over, I finally saw 
Bryan and Liz (they had indeed watched the movie), and when I told them I had received 
permission from the Captain, Bryan said that it wouldn't be a problem if indeed it was OK 
with the Captain — and that I should see him in the morning.

Jan. 23: Tristan da Cunha
	After waking up at 6:00am, I took a quick shower and was up outside the bridge by 
6:20am — Tristan da Cunha was in clear view, and not too far away.  Our current speed 
was 13-14 knots, and off the side of the ship was plenty of flying fish.  The Captain 
mentioned that kelp can sometimes be a problem when landing at Tristan, but with the good 
weather we were having there shouldn't be any problem — in fact, the plan now was to use 
the gangway instead of the rope ladder.  To the left of Tristan I could make out Nightingale 
Island in the distance, and as the ship came around, Inaccessible Island came into view off 
to the right.
	At first I decided to skip breakfast downstairs in favor of some brownies being served 
upstairs (delicious... but for breakfast?), though in the end I later went down for a quick 
breakfast as well (including more brownies), figuring I'd need the energy later in the day.  
After breakfast I went to the cabin to pack... I didn't know for sure yet if I'd be able to spend 
the night on the island, so while I decided to take my large pack, I empied almost everything 
out into the tiny storage closet, and put only one change of clothing into the bag (as I 
wanted to have plenty of space for any Tristan souvenirs I might buy).  Not telling anyone 
that I might be staying ashore (both because I wasn't yet sure myself, as well as not wanting 
to start a flood of last-minute requests), I went  upstairs to see Bryan in the lounge — where 
he told me he'd take care of everything.
	Up outside the bridge everyone was now crowded around the front, taking pictures as 
we slowly approached the island ("it's almost like Christmas," two different people 
commented).  The settlement of Edinburgh could clearly be seen sticking out on the flat 
plain of the otherwise-mountainous island, with all the colorful rooftops (red, grey, green, 
and blue)... looking at the tiny settlement from the ship, I realized that Tristan's entire 
population lived in this small little village.  Though it was a nice, partially-sunny day, the 
very top of the volcanic peak was hidden in the clouds.
	At 9:45am we arrived at Tristan, and the Captain let the doctor's two kids toot the 
ship's horn.  At 9:50am we anchored offshore... the swells were quite low, but as soon as we 
dropped anchor the boat began to rock from side to side.  All those who planned on 
disembarking to the island (or who just wanted to have their passports stamped) then 
assembled in the main lounge in order of their launch number to meet with Tristan 
immigration (who arrived by launch a few minutes later).  After paying the £10/US$15 fee, 
my passport was given a colorful blue Tristan da Cunha stamp... and shortly before Bryan 
left to go on the first launch, he told me everything had been arranged — that I just needed 
to stop by and see him on the island at some point during the day.
	While waiting for the second launch to arrive, I talked with some of the Tristanians 
who had boarded the ship... one told me that even though the weather was calm today, it 
wouldn't be a fishing day, as they only needed three more days worth of fish to reach the 
year's quota — and with the RMS visiting, didn't want to call a fishing day.
	At 11:00am the call for the second launch was announced, and I walked out to where 
the Captain was personally helping people get down off the gangway, waiting for the swells 
to lift the launch close enough to the RMS before yelling "GO!" at the appropriate time.  For 
me, boarding the launch wasn't a problem, and as second on the launch, I had plenty of 
opportunity to watch the elderly passengers hesitate when the Captain ordered them to go.  
With the good weather for the next few days, the rope ladder was used only once (the 
following day), and I was half-disappointed that I never had a chance to try it myself.  There 
were 25 of us on the second launch, including Carol Swain, the RMS' one Tristanian 
(carrying roses she brought all the way from Cape Town which she had kept in the ship's 
freezer — it would be an emotional visit for her, as with the RMS breakdown last year, it had 
been two years since she had last been able to visit her home, and during that time, her 
father had passed away).
	At 11:21am our fast, motor-powered launch took off for Tristan, with one of the locals 
telling me they had a mild winter this year.  Just a few minutes later we arrived at the 
island, where locals were waiting to assist anyone needing help in climbing out (because the 
gangway was able to be used with the good weather this morning, many — but not all — of 
the elderly passengers were able to go ashore today).  After all these years, I finally made it 
to Tristan da Cunha!
	Walking uphill from the harbor I looked around... off to the right were the many 
colorful fishing boats used to catch crayfish, nets stored inside.  Though these wider boats 
are now the ones used, examples of the thin, older-style longboat can be seen on display 
near the Administrator's house.  On a small white building with red stripes was a sign 
reading "Welcome to Tristan da Cunha", and much of the island had come out to see the 
ship and its arriving passengers.
	The area down by the harbor has some grazing areas, and the various fields are 
separated by walls of stacked black volcanic stones (with no cement or mortar holding them 
together).  Just a bit up the road is a sign which reads "Welcome to the Remotest Island" — 
though I suspect it's placed up only when a ship is calling (as is the case with the signs 
indicating the direction of the church, cafe, and other settlement landmarks).
	Though I would be exploring the island in depth later, I decided to play Japanese 
Tourist first, heading for the gift shop to pick up a thing or two before the rest of the ship 
dropped by.  Walking into the Tristan Craft Market & Museum, I wound up buying 
£66/US$99 worth of items, including some large Tristan maps (for which the lady kindly 
took a cardboard tube meant for calendars to store them in), a cap, T-shirt, souvenir license 
plate, button, and keyring.  Piling everything into my pack, I then continued to look around 
the settlement.
	Not too far from the water is a row of six similar-looking attached buildings which 
comprise everything from the Agriculture Department to the Electrical Workshop to the 
island's one store (a nicely-stocked market selling everything from frozen goods to toys to 
clothes).  In the store I bought myself a roll of ginger biscuits (ginger snaps) for a very 
reasonable 71p/US$1.07 and a hand-painted T-shirt for £7.50/US$11.25 (I noticed that 
Cokes were 28p/42c and wafers 25p/38c).  There were some fresh doughnuts as well, but 
they were being held for a local who had pre-ordered them (the store alternates with their 
available baked goods... today it was doughnuts, but you usually either have to pre-order 
them or arrive early enough before they're all gone).
	I went next to the post office to buy some first day covers and stamps (£13/US$19.50 
worth) — and it turned out to be the busiest place on the island, as a good number of 
visitors had the same idea (the two people working the counter were kept busy as everyone 
bought stamps not only for themselves but for gifts as well).  I picked up not only a few 
postcards, but two caps — as the post office happened to have the best-looking Tristan da 
Cunha caps on the island (£6.50/US$9.75 each).
	Next I headed to the building which houses the government offices and the Island 
Council chamber.  Inside, I cashed US$100 in travellers checks into £64.52, and noticed the 
computers in the office, with a 5 minute UPC backup in case of a power failure (the email 
was still down due to a virus).  In a neighboring room, I bought two copies of the Tristan 
Times (which comes out once or twice a year — 30p/45c each) and noticed that the new 
computer/email system had already been offloaded from the RMS, and was just waiting to 
be installed.  When I asked the lady if she had a general fact sheet on Tristan, she kindly 
went to her computer and printed one up for me right on the spot.
	The signs posted up at the government building were interesting to read, and give a 
glimpse of island life: this year's quota for Tristan fish is 125 tons (5 tons more than last 
year)... the swimming pool will re-open on 2 December, but incidents of glass or debris 
thrown in it will cause it to close... there is a vacancy for a shop assistant/clerk... Tristan is 
under attack by pests and bugs, and all imported fruit and vegetables must have an import 
certificate... the 288th meeting of the Island Council was 19 October 2000 (many younger 
islanders were elected this time, and the Council now includes 5 women)... there was a 
posted complaint about dogs not being under proper control, along with a notice of a 
possible £250 fine... the satellite phone room is next to the video library, and the price for a 
call to anywhere in the world from 28 September is now £1.83/US$2.75 a minute (for the 
radiophone it's £1.40 to the UK or 73p to South Africa, and payment must be made within 
four weeks)... notice of speed and DUI problems: if you're caught driving under the 
influence, you'll receive a 3 month ban on being able to drive — no warning given... and 
pleasure visits to Nightingale Island are available in patrol boats for £12/US$18 for ex-pats 
or £8/US$12 for residents.
	Walking outside, I met a young boy who introduced himself as Eugene.  When I 
asked him which way the Administrator's house was, he kindly showed me the way himself, 
offering to carry my bag.  Talking as we walked, he told me that school was now in session, 
though the kids were all out on lunch back until 1:30pm... when I mentioned that my name 
was Larry, he told me he has a cousin on the island here named Larry too.  At the 
Administrator's house I ran into Liz (Bryan's wife), and (asking her if it'd be OK), gave 
Eugene £1 for carrying my bag.
	The Administrator's house is the official residence of whomever the current island 
Administrator is... it's extremely nice, and unlike most modest island homes, looks as if it 
has been transplanted from the UK or the US.  In the front is a long walkway leading up to 
the house, cutting through a large lawn with flowers, a canon, the British flag, and plenty of 
golf balls — and off to the side are some colorful old white, blue, and red Tristan longboats 
(no longer used, but quite decorative).  Inside, the house is full of furniture and decorations, 
but has an airy feel to it with the windows and doors usually kept open... standing in the 
living room, one can immediately feel as if he's home in the UK rather than being on the 
remotest inhabited island in the world.
	Liz unfortunately didn't know where I was to stay while on the island, mentioning 
that Bryan was out and she was just about to leave herself to have a quick chat with the 
Governor's wife — but said I should feel free to drop my bag at their house and come back 
later.  Doing so, I thanked her, letting her know I'd return in a few hours.
	Walking around the area, the settlement seemed to be full of life with the RMS in port 
and the kids out on lunch.  Five younger kids (3 on bikes) came up to say hello, letting me 
take their picture (with them being as eager to meet a visitor as I was to meet them).  
Laundry was hanging out to dry on the clotheslines, and a large red tractor was parked 
outside one house.  There are thin, wooden electricity poles to supply the houses of the 
settlement with power, and I even noticed ham antennas next to two homes.
	Seeing the cafe, I decided to walk inside for a look around and a bite to eat, ordering 
half a tasty crayfish sandwich (50p/75c) and a good slice of chocolate cake (55p/83c).  
Meeting Udo inside, I also talked with a group of local guys about various things, finding out 
that the hours of the school were 9:00am-3:00pm with a break for lunch.  One of the guys 
then told me it would be OK to look at the school — as well as suggesting I check out the 
ages of those burried in the cemetery.  Before leaving, I asked the lady behind the counter 
what time she closes... her answer was "usually 6:00pm" (I found out a few days later that 
she was actually the owner of the cafe — one of the few businesses on the island owned by 
	Walking outside with Udo, we went to have a look at the nearby school — but arrived 
just as it was starting up after lunch.  At 1:30pm a young boy rang the bell, and all the 
students lined up outside before walking in together by class number.  Though we were 
right at the school, the teacher neither acknowledged us nor invited us in, so we decided to 
	Nearby the school is the fishing-day bell — a long hanging metal gas can which 
someone will hit early in the morning to inform the village if it's a fishing day (though most 
islanders I talked to said they can usually tell by the weather if it'll be a fishing day).  In the 
area plenty of cattle were grazing in the fields (separated by walls of stacked black volcanic 
rocks and gates), and I walked past the cows to get to the cemetery.
	There are actually two cemeteries on the island, right next to each other: the older 
one is where some of the earliest settlers are burried, and the newer, larger one (with nice 
tombstones and plenty of flowers) is the one currently being used.  Looking at some of the 
dates on the tombstones, the fellow at the cafe was certainly correct: Tristanians definitely 
live long lives (1902-1996, 1922-1999, 1899-1994, 1902-1993, etc).  In the old cemetery is 
the grave of William Glass (founder of the settlement), and his tombstone reads: William 
Glass, born at Kelso, Scotland, the founder of this settlement of Tristan da Cunha, in which 
he resided 37 years and fell asleep to Jesus Nov. 21, 1853, aged 67 years."
	Walking with Udo towards the volcano mound near the hillside, I noticed the Tristan 
water pumping station in the distance.  Deciding to rest on the hillside for about 20 
minutes, I sat down to write a bit in my journal while Udo went climbing higher up in the 
hills.  There was a nice view of the settlement, but cow dung was everywhere, as any 
available space is used for grazing.  Though cloudy, the weather was warm, and the sun had 
began to come out a little.
	When finished with my journal I walked down to have a look at the volcano mound... 
Tristan is volcanic, but when the volcano erupted in 1961, it wasn't the main cone which 
blew, but a new, small offshoot which formed next to the settlement (a small mound, really).  
Being so close, the old fish factory and some nearby homes were destroyed, and with little 
flat, livable land on the island, it took away precious space (other than the small settlement 
area and the nearby potato patches, the island is basically just the cone of the main 
	Climbing up on the mound (now just a pile of large, black volcanic rocks) there was a 
great view of the entire settlement of Edinburgh spread out in front — as well as a view of 
the island trash dump behind me.  While there, I ran into Susan and some other RMS 
passengers who were being shown around by Hanny (pronounced "Honey"), an interesting 
lady originally from Germany but now living in the US.  She had come to Tristan to research 
folklore and traditional music on the island but had alienated herself with the islanders with 
her personality — and with still a few months left on the island, no one wanted to have 
anything to do with her.  Though not a bad person at heart, it was one of those situations 
where I both felt sorry for her, yet could also understand the islanders' point of view.  
Though her actions (as told to me by some islanders) would be nothing out of the ordinary 
elsewhere, the old attage "When in Rome, Do Like a Roman" needs to be applied when one 
visits another place.  Bitter at being ostricized, she nonetheless planned to stay the entire 
length of her intended visit, as it was something she had looked forward to her whole life 
(though she was of course more than happy to meet and talk with fellow outsiders).
	Showing Susan and some of the other passengers around, Hanny was full of 
information about the island — but note that this information came from a fellow outsider, 
not an islander: from Dec. 18 to Jan. 6, everything on the island closes... on Saturdays 
when people go out to the potato patches, everything closes as well... Prince Philip Hall 
houses a hall, the island's pub, and a gym... the square patch of area surrounded by New 
Zealand flax is called the Mission's Garden (Monica Glass later told me it's owned by the 
government and is a small patch of land where vegetables are grown for the local store)... the 
brother of Lewis Carol ("Alice in Wonderland"/"Through the Looking Glass") was once a 
reverend on the island... Tristan has one Catholic church (red roof) and one Anglican church 
(green roof)... there are flies, but no mosquitos... all of the original males on Tristan were 
white, but only two of the original females were white (the two sisters from Ireland — 
responsible for much of the asthma on the island people now believe), with the other females 
being mixed (Saints, or Cape Coloureds).
	I'm sure it was her bitterness talking, but Hanny complained that no one on the 
island has an original or creative idea, or opens their mouth to suggest anything... she said 
that the "trained" islanders haven't had much training at all: the current school director 
became a clerk when she hit 15 (the age you leave school), as it was the only job available.  
She then applied for a job as a school teacher, went off the island for 6 months of training, 
and is now the school director.  No one has a two or four year degree, or (according to 
Hanny), any ambition... a permit is usually required for journalists to come to the island 
(£1,000 for print, £5,000 for TV), and they've all been given out until 2002... according to 
Hanny, there are almost no musical instruments on the island now — just a few recorders 
and button accordians, though I noticed keyboards in both the churches and the school.  
When I asked about the church organs, Hanny said they're played hunt-and-peck style with 
just one finger, though she did mention that the headmaster of the school (now overseas for 
training) could read music... the "street" signs (indicating the direction of the cafe and other 
buildings) are taken down as soon as the tourists leave... men and women talk and 
congregate separately (this is definitely true: while at the cafe, I noticed the men and women 
sitting and talking in separate groups, and one of the sattellite technicians later mentioned 
how, at the Governor's reception, the islanders all came in together, but once inside, split off 
and separated by gender)... you can vote at 18, though there is no campaigning — you 
simply put your name up for a spot, and as you run for office, declare if you'll accept Chief 
of the Island or not... Jimmy Glass is in his third 3-year term as Chief Islander, and has just 
turned 40... he was the only one to invite Hanny over for Christmas dinner... Hanny 
complained that rumor and vicious scuttlebutt is everything on the island, and that while 
people pray in church for the lonely, they have no problem ostricizing someone right there 
among them (however others would say that with her attitude, Hanny brought it on herself): 
Hanny had been paying the standard £20/US$30 a day rate (with meals) on an 8-month 
term for a place to stay.  After a while though, she wanted to re-negotiate the price, as she 
was staying for quite a while.  When the landlady said "no", Hanny found out about a self-
catering flat for only £10/day and decided to move there instead.  While this might be 
acceptable in the outside world though, the islanders saw it as her going back on her word 
— and along with her pushiness in asking questions (allegedly showing up uninvited at 
people's homes to bother them), caused her to be ostricized.
	All around the area of the volcano are holes into which you can stick your arm in and 
feel heat coming out — and each of us gave it a try.  Later that night at the pub, I asked the 
vulcanologist about this, and his reply was that it's quite normal, with rainwater geting 
inside and coming back up as steam.
	After walking around the volcano area with Hanny, Susan, and some of the other 
RMS passengers for a while, I figured I should head back to see if I could find Bryan — as I 
still had no idea where I would be spending the night.  Walking back to the Administrator's 
house with Graham, I finally managed to catch Bryan while he was in.  Saying he had given 
my name to his assistant Cynthia earlier in the day, Bryan said I should speak with her, as 
she'd know who I was to stay with (telling me I should let her know that I was the one he 
had talked to her about in the morning).  As Cynthia had already gone home for the day, 
Bryan drew a map to her place — but mentioned I should go now, as she'd be leaving soon 
to attend the Governor's cocktail party.  So as Graham went to look for penguins, I began 
walking up the hill to find the Administrator's assistant.
	When I found Cynthia she looked surprised to see me, saying Bryan never told her 
about me wanting to stay on the island — just the four journalists and the satellite TV crew.  
Mentioning she'd have happily made accomodations for me had she known, she now didn't 
know what to do, as it was getting late in the afternoon.  Asking me to wait there at her 
place, she went next door to talk to her neighbor (who often takes in people for 
accomodation)... a few minutes later she returned to say everything would be ok, and I 
followed her next door to meet Monica Glass, the lady with whom I'd be staying (her 
husband Edwin was currently out fishing for himself).  A nice couple, Monica and Edwin are 
the parents of Conrad (the island's one policeman) and Sheila (a teacher at the school).  
Their grandson Warren (in his 20s) stays with them, though I'd be using his room for the 
next two nights while he moved into a neighboring room.  After setting my things down and 
chatting with Monica for a bit (while she was knitting — a favorite pasttime among Tristan 
women), she wanted to know what time I'd like dinner.  Asking if 7:00pm was too late ("no, 
not at all"), I said perhaps between 7:00pm-7:30pm, then went out to explore some more.
	Seeing Graham walking back from the penguin area, he told me that after a lot of 
climbing he managed to see only one penguin (the penguins found on Tristan are 
rockhoppers — and with their yellow "eyebrows", have an almost "punk" look to them).  
Splitting up (as being a journalist, he had been invited to the Governor's cocktail party), we 
decided to meet later that evening at the pub.  Running into Hanny next, she invited me to 
visit her place — but as I was just on my way to walk out to the potato patches, told her I'd 
meet up with her later.  As we talked for a moment though, she stopped a local woman 
walking by to ask if the maize has been delivered yet... after a long pause, the islander 
finally answered with a cold "no."  All around, lots of nicely-dressed islanders were walking 
down from their homes to the center of town in order to attend the Governor's cocktail party, 
and in a way, I wish I had been invited as well.
	Before walking out to the potato patches, I stopped by Bryan's house to let him know 
who I'd be staying with... though as he was already gone, I had to leave the the message 
with his wife Liz.  While Bryan always seemed a bit scatterbrained, Liz was one of the nicest 
people you could meet, and there in the kitchen (filled with food for the cocktail party), she 
asked if I was hungry.  Intent on giving me something, she took a brand new pizza and gave 
me a few slices (insisting on cutting some tomato slices for the topping as well), telling me 
not to worry, as the pizza was meant for tomorrow and not for the party.  She then gave me 
an apple and kiwi, and though I felt bad, I nonetheless gladly accepted, as I hadn't had 
much to eat all day.  Telling me to relax in the kitchen and eat while she got ready for the 
party, I looked around the room... besides the usual kitchen amenities such as a fridge and 
microwave, a stereo was tuned to the BBC — though while it had a shortwave band, I later 
found out it was Radio Tristan's rebroadcast of the BBC I was listening to (at 5:20pm).
	Thanking Liz, I soon left to walk along the mostly-tarred road out to the potato 
patches.  All around me were rolling green hills, streams of water, and plenty of cattle and 
cow dung.  The sun had now come out, yet even though I was walking towards it that late 
afternoon, it was still quite pleasant, with blue skies and puffy white clouds above.  As 
Conrad later told me at the pub, there are only 65-70 days a year where the weather is good 
enough to go fishing — and perhaps only 5 days a year where the water is as calm as it was 
today.  As cold as Tristan can get at times, I was quite comfortable wearing shorts that 
	Arriving at the first bunch of potato patches, I noticed that it wasn't just potatoes 
which are farmed here, but other crops as well.  There are dozens of individual square plots 
(each family has some), all separated by walls of black volcanic rocks.  Next to most every 
patch is a small building of varying size and stature (the locals call them "camping huts"): 
some are made of rock while others are made of iron... some are bare while others are nicely 
painted with windows — and while some are only slightly larger than a tool shed, others are 
tiny little houses in their own right.  These are the local holiday homes for the islanders, 
where they can stay and spend some time away from town.
	As I had taken only my Nikes with me (leaving my sandals on the RMS), I decided to 
take off my shoes for a bit in order to "feel" Tristan under my feet — and avoiding the cattle 
dung, had a nice walk around the area before putting them back on.  At 6:50pm the 
lowering sun provided magnificent colors to the rolling hills behind me, and as I continued 
walking further, I noticed more huts close to the cliffs by the sea.  Here, I also found 
something a bit out of place on the remotest inhabited island in the world: a British "Bus 
Stop" sign for the occasional "bus" which runs between town and the patches (there is a 
posted schedule in town) — though many islanders now have their own cars.  One hut 
overlooking the water had an attached antenna... at first it looked like a ham antenna, but 
Ed later thought it was just a regular antenna to pick up Tristan Radio.
	At 7:15pm I sat down at the edge of the cliff to look out at the sea, surrounded by the 
stillness and quiet of the area with only a few lone cows and birds nearby.  Though I knew 
I'd be late in returning back to Monica's, it was just too beautiful an afternoon for me to 
leave yet.  Off in the distance I could see Inaccessible Island, and its silhouette against the 
setting sun looked very much like a hippo (complete with ears).  After sitting there for a few 
more minutes I finally decided to head back, hoping I wouldn't be too late but knowing I 
probably would be.
	Walking back along the road, I heard the sound of a motorbike come up from behind 
me... as I moved to the side, the local waved without stopping.  A few minutes later a new 
white Ford bakkie with canopy (a pickup with a shell) came by, and as I didn't want to be 
late at Monica's, I waved and it stopped.  Five people were squeezed into the cab (the young 
husband driving, his wife, their teenage daughter, a boy, and a baby), and the husband 
offered me a ride, telling me to hop in back.  Driving back to town, I noticed one quirk of 
Tristanians: quietness whenever strangers are around... while I was riding in the back, 
everyone in the cab was dead quiet (with only the curious daughter and boy occasionally 
turning around to have a look at me), and I'm sure had I not been there, the family would 
have been talking for the whole trip.  Along the way, we passed the hospital as well as the 
doctor's house (which had a sign saying "Camogli, 1971" on it).  Dropping me off at the bus 
stop in town, I smiled and thanked the family, noticing that it was now 7:45pm.
	Walking up the hill, I briefly ran into Eugene (the boy who had carried my bag 
earlier)... and back at Monica's, dinner was cooking on the stove.  A bit sweaty, I first went 
into the bedroom to change into long sleeves and long pants before coming back out to meet 
her husband Edwin — he had been out fishing for himself and had caught some fresh ones 
for tonight's dinner. With it being a beautiful early evening, I was almost ready to go out for 
another walk around the area, but dinner was soon ready: fresh fried fish, potato fries (with 
skin), and canned corn (with of course delicious Tristan water straight from the tap).  The 
dinner was basic yet delicious — much more what I'm used to than the fancy fare served 
aboard the RMS.
	Over dinner, the three of us had a nice talk: Monica works in the fish factory 
spraying the fish... Edwin is a retired fisherman, though he has come out of retirement to 
fish again, as a friend of his needed a partner (you always fish with a partner, never alone)... 
their son Conrad ("Connie") who lives adjoining to them is the one policeman on the island... 
their daughter Sheila teaches at the school... their grandson Warren works for the Fisheries 
and Environmental Department of the government, though now that the Governor was 
visiting, he had been given the job of protecting him and keeping him on schedule... Monica 
and Ed were both evacuated to the UK in 1961 of course (it was quite difficult for them, as 
Conrad was only a few months old at the time) — but they wanted to return to Tristan, and 
have since never been back to the UK (though Conrad went to Wales for police training)... 
there's not too much live music on the island, but CDs and tapes are popular... there's a 
video rental library, and most homes (including theirs) have a TV and VCR.
	Monica and Ed's place is quite nice, and typical of most island homes: modest, yet 
not lacking any conveniences, the one-story metal-roof building has attachments next door 
where Conrad and his wife stay, a nice little yard and gate in front, thin carpet, an 
automatic washing machine, clothesline for drying laundry, shower with temperature 
control box, 13" TV, VCR, stereo, microwave, a nice sitting room between the main house 
and attachment (where the TV and sofa are), and of course individual bedrooms.
	While eating dinner I heard a bell ringing outside... Monica said it was the mail bell, 
signaling that mail from the ship was ready to be handed out down at Prince Philip Hall 
(Sheila would go down later to collect the mail for everyone).
	After dinner I walked outside for a moment to take a picture of the RMS anchored 
under a beautiful sunset... it was dusk on an absolutely gorgeous evening.  For a while I sat 
down with Ed in the sitting room to chat, but anxious to see the pub, I asked if he'd like to 
come have a drink with me.  Accepting, the two of us walked the short distance down to 
Prince Philip Hall (where the pub is located — the Hall is about halfway between the harbor 
and the top row of homes against the hillside).  There are a few street lights along the road, 
though it's such a small village, it's impossible to get lost.
	Walking inside the Hall, I noticed a lot of women gathered in the "gym" side (opposite 
the pub, and where the dances are held)... it was mail distribution time, and as the ladies 
from the post office (standing in the center of the room next to giant bags of mail) read off 
names, the women of the village came up to collect their parcels and letters (one of satellite 
techs in the pub later said that as men, we weren't allowed inside the room during the mail 
	The pub at Prince Philip Hall is a lively place in the evenings, and walking inside, I 
immediately noticed the difference in people's behavior from earlier in the day — whereas 
most islanders were friendly-but-reserved when tourists were around (answering a hello but 
never initiating one), in the pub now at night with most tourists back on the RMS, it was a 
different story: people were friendly and talkative, and everything from darts to a serious 
game of snooker (on a beautiful brand new table) was going on... locals came up to offer me 
a drink, and everyone seemed to be of good cheer.
	In the pub I ran into Simon (who had managed to arrange accomodation for himself 
as well — other than the journalists and people on official business, only myself, Simon, and 
one older couple had managed to arrange a stay on the island).  With the pub being about 
the only nightlife in the settlement, everyone was there: the journalists, the vulcanologist, 
the satellite techs, and a lot of locals just hanging out.  Buying a Castle beer for Ed, an older 
local drunk got me to buy her a drink as well (I had a Sprite).  Behind the counter, I met 
Dylis once more... earlier in the day she had been working at the post office while I was 
buying stamps, but at night she becomes the pub's bartender.  Extemely friendly, we talked 
for a while, with her telling me that the mail is sorted by hospital, police, and the various 
families first before ringing the bell.  The Austrian satellite tech then came up to ask if I 
wanted a mailbag (as a joke)... and thinking I could always use an extra carrying bag 
(especially if it had Tristan da Cunha on it), I said "sure!"... so Dylis went away and came 
back with a huge empty plain white sack made of rice bag material.  Though it was way too 
big to be of any use, I nonetheless thanked her and took it back to the house with me later, 
as she had been nice enough to find one for me.  A bit later Andre (of Ovenstone) introduced 
me to Greg (the young South African manager of the fish factory) and his wife... I was 
delighted to see how as management, he hung out with the islanders and got along fine with 
them.  Talking with Dylis again, she told me no one person "owns" the pub (the island 
government operates it), but she pretty much runs it... it usually closes around 10:00pm, 
with the last drink order accepted at 9:30pm.
	A few minutes later Neil (one of the South African journalists) came into the pub wet, 
cold, and chattering his teeth.  There was a lot of commotion, and I soon found out what 
happened: Neil had brought his kayak with him to the island in the hopes of being the first 
person to circumnavigate Tristan da Cunha in a kayak — but instead of asking permission 
or letting people know what he was planning, he decided to just go off by himself, starting at 
around 3:00pm.  As time went by and no one could find him, word got out about what he 
was attempting to do — and when he hadn't returned by nightfall, everyone from Conrad to 
Captain Roberts was notified, as they began to organize a search party.  Finally returning 
back at a little after 8:00pm, Neil certainly pissed off the people who were just about to look 
for him... Conrad was especially mad, saying "look, no one warned us of what he was 
doing... I've already had 5 beers, as has Warren... we're in no condition to take part in a 
rescue... how stupid can you be?  There are sharks around the island... all he had to do was 
tell us what he planned to do, and we'd have had someone follow him... it's stupidity to try 
something like that and not let others know what you're doing!"  Neil's excuse was that he 
hadn't actually planned on doing the whole thing, saying he just started it and kind of kept 
going — but I believe he meant to do it from the start, and was just afraid that if he told any 
islander his plan, they would have put a stop to it (a real possibility, though no one will ever 
know now).  In the end he made it, becoming the first person to circumnavigate Tristan da 
Cunha on a kayak — though without any witnesses, it will never be in the record books.  
Captain Roberts was supposedly very angry that night (though later in the voyage, seemed 
to almost congratulate Neil on his feat), and Conrad, pretty pissed by the incident, went on 
to say that there are maybe only 5 days a year where the water is calm enough for 
something like that to be successful — and Neil was damn lucky that today was one of 
them.  Don half-jokingly suggested to Conrad that he arrest Neil... with Conrad answering 
that he might have had the jail not currently been stuffed full of rescue equipment 
(commenting also that he doesn't think someone should be locked up after they've just been 
rescued — or almost-rescued).  Though he was fine, Neil couldn't stop his jaw from 
chattering for a while, and people were soon offering him a beer.
	At 9:25pm the bell for the last drink orders rang, and at 9:50pm I left to go back to 
the house.  Relaxing in the sitting room was myself, Monica, Edwin, Conrad, Sheila, Warren, 
and two local guys who had come over to chat (one had sailed with the old RMS, and 
another was a fisherman — they'd both be guides on tomorrow's walk up to the Base, and 
one of them was named Neil).  Having a nice chat, we talked about everything from the 
kayak stunt to Captain Roberts and the RMS: apparently, Roberts had to go to court once 
for taking the wind out of a smaller boat's sail during a race, as well as coming too close to 
the other yacht and damaging it.  The guys said Captain Robert's nickname (behind his 
back) is "ticketyboo", as one of his favorite expressions is "everything will be ticketyboo" — 
and also commented that from what they hear, the crew likes Captain Smith better than 
Captain Roberts, as Smith trusts the crew more and lets them carry out their jobs without 
butting in, while Roberts always has to do everything himself (witness him personally being 
the one to tell passengers when to jump down off the ship at Tristan).  The general 
consensus on the Governor here was that he seems nice enough, though everyone really 
liked the last one quite a bit, and Governor Hollamby will have to live up to his predecessor's 
legacy (Warren commented that while he was on St. Helena, he was amazed at how the last 
governor mixed with the locals all the time, treating everyone as equals and not 
subordinates).  Warren then talked about his stint on Gough Island (as he works for the 
Department of Environment) — in the middle of winter with only a few days notice, he was 
sent to the harsh island (where the only structure is the large South African-manned 
weather station) to help with ways of getting rid of a certain type of grass from Marion Island 
which was destroying much of the other vegetation on Gough.  With very little training, he 
found himself stuck in one of the world's harshest environments in the middle of winter 
(though he said at least the station had videos in the evening).
	At 11:30pm the two guests left, and everyone went their separate ways.  After 
brushing my teeth I went into the bedroom to start my journal... as the power shut off right 
at midnight, I lied down on the floor, continuing to write my journal by flashlight until 
finally finishing at 12:50am.  As I hadn't brought my pajamas with me, I slept in my long 
clothes — but I didn't care... I was able to spend a few nights on Tristan da Cunha.  Lying 
there in bed, I listened to the total silence around me... there wasn't a sound to be heard or 
a light to be seen for thousands of miles in any direction.
	  Misc. notes: as I wasn't sure if I'd actually be able to stay on Tristan or not, I had 
with me only one polo shirt, one long-sleeve shirt, one pair of shorts, one pair of long pants, 
two pairs of underwear and socks, and my Nikes (no sandals) — and I had to make those 
last for three days, as I wouldn't be on the ship again until it was time to leave... my camera 
lens was indeed not working right, and as I'd jiggle it about to try to clear up the focus, I 
hoped profusely that the pictures would come out alright (in the end they did)... there are 
plenty of dogs on the island, and many of them will yap at you as you walk by — what's 
scary about them is that the white-and-black dogs all look identical — I couldn't tell one dog 
from the other (Ed and Monica had two dogs: Rocky and Scout, and I wouldn't be able to tell 
them apart save for the fact that Rocky had two brown eyes, and Scout had one brown eye 
and one blue eye)... there are no cats on the island... most people here hold down more than 
one job, as there is always a lot to do and only so many people on the island (for instance, 
Warren was not only with the Fisheries and Environmental Department, but helped out 
looking after the visiting Governor as well — and Dylis worked at the post office during the 
day and the pub at night)... like everywhere I suppose, people here like to drink a lot, 
especially beer... islanders have an interesting accent, though it's not hard to understand: 
one thing they do is add an "H" before words beginning with an "A" or "O" — so "Ann" will 
become "Hann" and "organize" becomes "horganize."
	While on the island I asked a few people about the hours of Radio Tristan (as I had 
left my radio on the ship and never had a chance to actually listen to it) — and I received 
slightly different answers each time I'd ask the question.  In general, it seems that the 
station operates for a few hours in the morning and a bit in the evening (the lady in the 
government building told me two hours in the morning and one hour at night), though a few 
people thought it also was on the air for an hour or two on certain afternoons.  I never 
actually heard anyone listening to the station while on the island, though I was usually off 
doing my own thing most of the time.
	My impressions of Tristanians are that they are quite different than their Saint 
neighbors in demeanor: whereas a Saint will usually wave and greet everyone he passes 
(whether he knows them or not), Tristanians are much quieter, passing people without 
waving or acknowledging them (though a "hello" on the street will always be answered, it will 
almost never be initiated — very different than on St. Helena).  This lack of greeting occurs 
among the islanders themselves as well, though I guess with everyone living so close to each 
other every day of their lives, greeting people all the time would probably become rather 
annoying (at least St. Helena is a larger island).  I suppose the one word which describes the 
Tristan attitude (at least when others are around) is "reserved" — but this doesn't mean 
unfriendly, and one need only step into the pub at night to see some of the reserve drift 
away.  Young kids don't have any of this however, and are just like kids anywhere — eager 
to meet and talk with you about frogs, giants, and their fellow classmates.  These 
observations are of course only personal impressions gained over a course of just three days, 
but I'll bet if you sit a Tristanian and a Saint in the same room, you'll notice quite a 
difference (then again, if you sit a New Yorker and a Californian down in the same room, 
you'll notice quite a difference as well).

Jan. 24: Tristan da Cunha [Base Walk / Island Reception / Dance]
	Even though I went to bed late last night and was up early this morning, last night 
was still the best sleep I had in a long time.  It was also interesting sleeping with no ambient 
light outside — when the electricity shut off, the island was completely dark.  However when 
the power went off at midnight, I forgot to turn off the light switch — so at 6:00am this 
morning I awoke to the lights in my room suddenly coming on.  Lying in bed, I heard the 
family stirring (Ed said he's often up by 5:00am), and at 6:20am went to take a shower in 
the bathroom.
	Having breakfast (toast, egg, and ham) with Monica, Ed, and Sheila, I found out that 
Sheila teaches the first class (kids aged 5-7) at the island school (St. Mary's School), and 
had gone to the UK for 6 months of training for the job.  Later in the day while attending a 
reception at the school, I was surprised to see a room with 7 or 8 computers inside — 
though Sheila said only 3 or 4 of them work.  Sheila unfortunately is one of the many 
islanders with asthma, and it was acting up a bit this morning.  When I asked about snow, 
Edwin (whose nickname is "Spike") said that it occasionally falls on the mountain, but never 
down below in the settlement (though they receive plenty of rain and wind throughout the 
year).  As I gave Monica my "Hunt for Red October" book, Warren came in the room and said 
"hey, they made that into a movie, right?"  I then addressed and sealed the tube with my 
Tristan maps, as I planned to stop by the post office later that afternoon.
	Walking outside, I soon met up with the journalists... Don told me he was up at 
5:00am to watch some cow milking, as the local ladies go out early in the morning to milk 
their cows (feeding them potatoes to keep them happy while the milking is going on).  I was 
determined to see this myself tomorrow, but I later found out Don had exaggerated a bit — 
the milking usually doesn't start until 6:15am-6:30am.
	Walking around on my own, I had a peek into the Catholic Church (St. Joseph's, with 
the red roof; the Anglican Church has the green roof) and discovered that besides the one 
public restroom in the settlement (which doesn't have a light), St. Joseph's is a good place to 
visit if you need to use a toilet, for inside is a clean, well-lit little bathroom.  Wanting a place 
to sit and jot some notes down into my notepad, I actually used the church loo — though I 
also used it for real, knowing I'd soon be going on a long hike.  On the walls of the church 
were shelves of wholesome family videos, and there was even a small Casio organ for hymns.
	Back outside I ran into Simon, and we talked for a bit.  I figured the first launch from 
the RMS wouldn't arrive until later — but at 8:10am the first bunch of passengers was 
already walking around the settlement.  As I had left my small daypack back at the house, I 
had to now scurry back to fetch it — for today was the scheduled Base hike, and we were to 
leave at 8:30am.  Back at the house, Monica had a packed lunch waiting for me (a cheese-
and-tomato sandwich), and after filling my water bottle up with fresh Tristan tap water, I 
hurried back to where the hikers were gathering.  All in all there would be 27 people and 4 
guides going on the Base walk, as Conrad made sure we were all accounted for — and we 
soon boarded the 4 vehicles (2 bakkies, 1 Land Rover, and an open truck) which would take 
us out to the start of the walk (out past the potato patches).  Carl was going on the hike as 
well (his first time), and he had a radio with him to help coordinate things if people fell 
	The cost of the hike was £6/US$9 and £2/US$3 more for the round-trip 
transportation between town and the start of the walk (the normal tourist fare for the bus) 
— though when Geoff (the head purser) first mentioned the hike on the RMS, he didn't 
mention the transportation fee wasn't included with the £6.  Geoff said he'd pay for the hike 
today (with us having to pay him back at some point later on), but none of us was expecting 
to have to pay the £2 transportation fee as well (collected by Conrad on the return).  With all 
of us piled into the 4 vehicles, we began driving out past the last set of potato patches (the 
sight of people standing in the open truck behind us made them look almost like migrant 
farm workers), and finally got out of the trucks to begin our walk at 9:00am.
	With blue skies and warm weather, today would be a perfect day for the hike... the 
hills around us were a beautiful green, and though we walked for a bit through some flat 
land, we soon began to climb.  It turned out to be quite a nice workout: though nothing 
extraordinary, the hike requires walking along narrow trails and climbing steep hills 
(towards the top there's a rope to hang onto), and is certainly not something which someone 
in their 80s should try.  Still, I was surprised that the group did as well as they did, with 
myself usually being somewhere in the middle of the crowd.
	During the walk we had a chance to talk to Neil and the other guides, and learned a 
lot of information: families on the island can have as many potato patches as they want (if 
there's room), and some large families have quite a few... there are two types of potatoes 
grown... fruit on Tristan is rare, though there are some peach, apple, and plum trees on the 
island... farm animals on Tristan include cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens... most islanders 
go swimming out by the patches... there are sharks in the water, but if you keep close to 
shore you should be ok (the sand on the island is volcanic black, and extremely fine)... to 
put up a camping hut you must first obtain permission, but it's free to do so (no property 
costs)... the camping hut for the Administrator is the furthest one out (off by itself by the old 
patches and the rock out in the water), and can be seen from the climb up... there is daily 
bus service (except Sunday) running between town and the patches... and when the 
potatoes are harvested, most are stored until needed.
	Passing the sheep paddocks on the hillside at the beginning of the walk, Neil 
mentioned there are about 800 sheep, and either the ears or the wool is tagged so that 
people can tell who the various sheep belong to.  Way off in the distance, someone pointed 
out a rockhopper penguin, and Neil told us they're a little hard to find now, as it was 
currently moulting season (later that afternoon I noticed feathers around where I finally 
spotted some).
	The hike today certainly was a good climb, and it took a full two hours to reach the 
Base (located at a height of about 2,000ft — the volcano itself is over 6,000ft).  The path 
winds through valleys, around corners, and along barely-marked trails, with the occasional 
need to shove some bushes aside.  We also passed many interesting plants, and John (the 
botanist also on the St. Helena trip) pointed out an edible berry which is nicknamed 
"diddledee" (when I later mentioned this to Monica and Ed, they said yes, they use the berry 
to make pies... when I asked them "what do you call it?" [meaning the proper name of the 
berry], Monica replied "oh, berry pie").
	On the way up I noticed one hillside was nothing but a clean slope of red dirt... half-
jokingly, I asked if we could slide down it on the return instead of having to walk down the 
same way we were coming up — and was surprised to hear "yes, if you want to."  Going up 
it's hard to see the top, and just as you think what you're looking at is the Base, you realize 
it's not — and there's still quite a ways to go.  As the climb becomes steeper near the end 
there are ropes which you can grab on to (hammered into the ground or tied around trees), 
though the first one we came across wasn't properly fastened.
	It was 11:00am when the middle of the group finally reached the Base.  Finally 
having a chance to relax, we all sat down on the grass (getting a lot of sun, as there was no 
shade around) and ate a bit of lunch while looking down at the spectacular view below.  
Passengers who had stayed on the RMS were given a box lunch (complete with yoghurt), but 
I ate the sandwich Monica made for me, drinking only some of the Tristan water (as I only 
had a small bottle and didn't want to finish it yet).
	Up at the top albatrosses were flying all around us, and it was quite a beautiful sight.  
Though Graham and Neil (the journalists) didn't go on the hike, Don and Callin did — along 
with 25 other RMS passengers, including Susan, the retired 747 pilot, a middle-aged South 
African couple, and even Hanny (who joined the group for the walk).  After resting and 
chatting over lunch at the lookout point, some of us decided to explore around the base — 
as just a short walk in from the viewpoint is an area where many albatrosses nest... and we 
were soon able to see and approach a baby albatross (approximately 1 month old) at a close 
distance.  When albatross babies feel threatened, their only defense is to spit, though by 
now this particular one had been approached so much this morning that he was out of spit 
(though he still went through the motions).  White and extremely fluffy, he sat there on his 
nest while we all went up to take pictures (though I tried not to disturb him as best I could), 
and while others then went further into the area, most of us returned to the lookout to eat a 
bit more and enjoy the view of the patches and ocean below.
	At 11:25pm I was ready to go down, but the guides didn't want to start heading back 
until everyone was ready — as some people were still just making it up to the top and others 
had decided to go deeper into the area behind us.  So with no shade around I put on more 
suntan lotion, took off my shoes and socks, drank most of the water, and chatted more with 
the group (many of whom decided to lay out to get a suntan).  Udo and Susan had noticed I 
didn't return to the ship last night, and were surprised to learn I was able to arrange a stay 
on the island.  While talking, we all took pictures of the view (with both Nightingale and 
Inaccessible Islands visible from the grassy lookout), with it being so nice that the husband 
of the South African couple wound up walking down halfway (only to climb up again) in 
order to borrow more film and a different camera for his wife.  After climbing up for a second 
time, the husband and some others decided to start down on their own — and as 12:05pm 
came and some of the guides still weren't back (having gone deeper into the area behind us 
with some other hikers), I decided to start down myself as well.
	On my way down I had to be careful not to slip, so I used every available rope... I also 
soon decided to do what a few other hikers were trying, sliding down the steep grade on my 
butt (using my arms to help push me).  Of course this turned my tan pants green and 
brown, but in the end I didn't care... it was quicker and safer than trying to maneuver down 
on foot, though I walked normally for part of the way as well.
	By now some of the guides started down to make sure we were going in the right 
direction, and we soon came to the slope which was nothing but soft rust-colored dirt and 
stones. Once there, I decided to run down it all the way to the bottom — the slope was so 
steep and the dirt so soft that each time I'd set my foot down, I'd slide a few feet before I had 
a chance to lift it up (I called it "dirt skiing").  With the momentum of going down this way, I 
fell down more than once, though I was always able to land softly on my butt (continuing to 
descend until I dug my hands in to stop).  This certainly was a faster (and much more fun) 
way to get to the bottom than walking — and I managed to finish the last half of the Base 
hike in about 3 minutes.  Just before reaching the bottom, I stopped to look down at the 
colorful, lightweight volcanic rocks, collecting four of them (red, grey, orange, and black) to 
take home as souvenirs.
	While waiting for the rest of the group down below at 1:10pm, I decided to join Don in 
having a look at the nearby ocean for a bit.  Taking off my shoes, the fine black volcanic 
sand was extremely comfortable, and also made the waves appear somewhat dark.  Rolling 
up my long pants and wading in the water, I was surprised at how warm the water was, 
even this far south.  Sadly, I did see some trash in the area (broken glass and rusted cans), 
though I suppose few beaches in the world now are completely trash-free.  My feet definitely 
looked strange as I tried to brush the fine black sand off them in order to put my shoes and 
socks back on... and I soon joined the rest of the group walking back to where the vehicles 
were waiting.  Along the way, I asked Neil about the homes the islanders have on 
Nightingale... he replied that when the sea is calm enough, they will sometimes go there for 
a vacation, though the huts also serve as an evacuation area in case the Tristan volcano 
erupts again (they always use the longboats to get to Nightingale, not the fishing boats).  
Wondering what happens when there's a fight between people in a community where 
everyone must live so close, Neil replied that it's been a long time since there was such a 
fight.  He also mentioned that most food comes to the island from South Africa aboard the 
two fishing ships (Kelso and Edinburgh) rather than the RMS, as the RMS only comes once 
a year for a few days, and if it can't anchor long enough for the food to be offloaded (in the 
case of bad weather), everything then has to be returned.
	Standing next to the vehicles, Conrad was waiting in full uniform to collect the 
£2/US$3 fee from each of us for the transportation — which we had to pay before being 
taken back (luckily we all had the money on us, as Geoff hadn't made clear that the £2 
transportation fee wasn't included with the £6 for the hike).  The husband of the South 
African couple decided to save £1 and jog back though, taking off his shirt and running 
along the road.
	Heading back, I found out a bit more about the fishing situation: this year there are 
only 4 days of fishing left for the island to reach its quota... last year they managed to catch 
the quota in only 18 fishing days, but those days lasted until 6:30pm — this year, the 
fishing days have been shortened to end at 4:00pm, so a few more days were necessary... 
and the quota is strictly adhered to in order to prevent overfishing.
	Returning to town at 2:15pm, I first went back to Monica's to pick up the tube with 
my maps in it, though I wasn't sure if it would now be too late to send them — as I had seen 
a sign up at the post office yesterday saying that the mail would close at 4:00pm on Tuesday 
(yesterday) — or if the weather was good, 12:00 noon today (as they must have time to pile, 
sort, and send the mail off to the RMS).  However upon walking in, Dylis said that due to the 
unusually good weather, they would be accepting mail until 3:00pm today — meaning I was 
able to send off my Tristan maps from Tristan itself instead of having to carry them with me 
all the way home.  Dylis also told me that if I used an "airmail" sticker it would travel airmail 
via Cape Town, but if not, it would stay aboard the RMS until it reached the UK in March.  
Paying £3.70/US$5.55 and using the airmail sticker (laughing a bit, as of course it still has 
to go by ship for a good part of the journey), the tube from Tristan did indeed arrive quickly 
once I returned home — at least a month before the tube I mailed from St. Helena did (the 
St. Helena tube also arrived damaged, while the tube from Tristan arrived in perfect shape).  
While at the post office, I picked up a few more stamps and post cards (mailing one to my 
dad and one to myself), and noticed a list of names and addresses up on the wall of people 
overseas wishing to have pen pals on the island.
	From the post office I ran into Don again, who took me over to meet Mr. Lindsey 
Repetto, one of the few model-boat makers left on the island.  Commenting that young kids 
today don't care about such things anymore, he showed us some of the model wood-and-
canvus longboats he was currently making in his workshop out in front of his house.  
Telling us they take about 60 hours to complete, he said most of the wood used is local, 
though he does use one type of imported wood.  A very friendly fellow, he charges 
£40/US$60 for a boat (plus about £3 to ship them overseas), though he didn't have any 
ready to sell, as he was currently working on boats for others who had already placed 
	Splitting up with Don, I passed Conrad on the street (who complained he had so 
much to do)... usually he has Lorraine as an assistant, but as she and her husband were 
about to leave on the RMS tomorrow, he was extremely busy, having to do everything 
	Making my way down the row of small, attached buildings near the fish factory, I 
decided to have a look inside the market once more.  Inside, I was surprised to see just how 
cheap many items were, especially considering they all have to be imported from 
somewhere... soap: 14p/21c, large toothpaste: 39p/59c, Tabasco sauce: £2.20/US$3.30, 
500g box of Omo laundry detergent: 48p/72c, 8-pk of mini Kellog's cereals: £1.33/US$2.00, 
biscuits (cookies): 50p/75c, a box of wafers: 53p/80c, white grape juice in the bottle: 
24p/36c, box of 40 red tea bags: 33p/50c, good SPF30 sunscreen from South Africa: 
£3.88/US$5.82, and a cheap Chinese-made harmonica: £1.58/US$2.37.  When I mentioned 
to a lady at the store how inexpensive some of the prices were, she commented that a lot of 
the products (such as toothpaste) are subsidized... and when she asked how the prices 
compare to those I'm used to at home, I told her how much some of the items would cost 
back in the States (using the toothpaste as an example).  Her reply was "maybe that's why 
so many visitors stock up on toothpaste here..."  Later by the register, I saw a notice for 
tourists posted up, saying that as prices for certain items (such as toothpaste, tea, and jam) 
are subsidized for islanders, please understand that higher prices for these items need to be 
charged for visitors ("please see the price sheet for the visitor price") — but the lady didn't 
mention this policy, and seemed to indicate that I could buy the toothpaste at the marked 
(islander) price (sure enough, as an experiment the next day, I bought a few items such as 
toothpaste — and even though the notice was posted right by the register, the cashier just 
rung the toothpaste up at the subsidized price, never even mentioning the notice).  Asking 
next about the doughnuts I had seen yesterday, the lady told me they were all out (as you 
need to get them early in the morning before they're gone)... she did ask if I wanted to pre-
order the baked item for tomorrow, but as it was to be beef pies, I decided not to.
	The Governor's wife then came into the store to look around herself, and joined me 
browsing through the souvenir section.  The store was selling great coffee mugs with a 
detailed, full-color map of the island for only £3/US$4.50 — and even though I figured it 
would never last the journey all the way back to California, decided to buy one anyway (even 
Mrs. Governor wanted one, though in the end, she bought a tea cosy, afraid that the mug 
would break).  Asking the cashier if she had a box or anything to protect it with, she came 
back with some paper towels, and wrapped them around the mug... in the end it actually 
did make it all the way back home, and now sits nicely on my knick-knack shelf.  Leaving 
the store, I stopped by the candy area (by the exit, so kids don't have to enter the main store 
just to buy sweets), and bought myself a candy bar for 23p/35c... on the way out, I noticed 
a sign up on the door saying the store would be closed for stocktake on January 30th.
	Next I decided to walk down to the fish factory (a large, modern building close to the 
water).  A "No Unauthorised Entry" sign was on the gate, but as it was open, I had a quick 
peek around the grounds (though I didn't actually walk inside the building itself — even 
though its door was wide open).  No one was around the factory today, but looking in at the 
building through its open door, I could see the clean, modern facilities which are used to 
freeze and box the crayfish, from the metal chutes the fish come down on to the scales they 
get weighed with (including a sign indicating a Ladies Tea Room off to the side).  Tristan 
fishermen use short long-line nets from their boats, not the incredibly large ones which trap 
and kill the albatrosses which some other countries use (at the reception tonight, Jimmy 
Glass mentioned he had heard that some of the Japanese long-line fishing vessels use nets 
over 60 miles long).
	From the empty fish factory I walked up a bit to see the satellite techs working on 
their dishes (the two dishes would face opposite directions)... one dish was already up, and 
the parts for the second were laid out on the grass.  Trying to figure out the assembly 
instructions for the second dish, the techs searched for a missing screw — and though both 
dishes were eventually set up, a bad storm in May 2001 knocked one of them over.
	With the satellite team working outside the radio station, I decided to have a quick 
look in at Radio Tristan myself, as no one was inside the building and I was curious to see 
how it compared with Radio St. Helena.  Inside, the building is divided up into two halves: 
one side is the communications area (with a two-way radio, a radio-telephone, and a satellite 
phone), and the other side is for Radio Tristan: the small studio contained a CD player, a 
double-cassette deck, 2 LP turntables, and a simple mixing board — as well as plenty of 
recordings.  On the wall were shelves of old LPs (mostly pop or country albums, as well as 
some from Radio Helvetica — just like St. Helena), some cassettes, and a few CDs.  No one I 
asked seemed to know the exact schedule of Radio Tristan, though most people said it 
broadcasts for about 2 hours in the morning, and a bit in the afternoons, with a local lady 
acting as DJ.
	Stopping by at the Museum/Craft Centre again, the lady at the front showed me a 
first-day cover envelope someone had dropped, and asked if I would take it back to the RMS 
and return it to whomever dropped it.  I agreed, but said I wouldn't be returning back to the 
ship until tomorrow, and was afraid it would get messed up in my pack... the lady asked 
who I was staying with, and then said she'd drop it off for me at Monica's later in the day.  
The museum half of the building has quite a few nice displays on Tristan, including some 
historical photographs from 1947, showing the old thatched-roof homes on the island before 
the volcano erupted.  After reading a bit on Tristan's history, I asked the lady at the desk 
how locals pronounce "Tristan da Cunha" (as I've heard foreigners pronounce it both "coon-
ah" as well as "coon-nya") — and her reply (as well as Monica and Ed's when I asked them 
later) was "coon-ah."
	At 3:55pm I walked over to the cafe — glad it was still open, as I was pretty hungry.  
Before entering, I could hear the place was noisy and lively, with locals chatting away in 
separate groups of men and women... though as soon as I walked through the door, an 
immediate silence fell upon the room — as with the presense of a stranger, people quietly 
returned to eating.  Ordering half a crayfish sandwich, a slice of chocolate cake, and an 
orange juice box, I sat down to eat, completely aware that were I not in the room people 
would be acting much differently (by this time the other passengers were back on board the 
RMS, and the locals probably didn't expect a visitor to walk in).  Before leaving, I asked the 
lady at the counter if the cafe belonged to the government or if she owned it, and was told 
that she does in fact own it (making the sandwiches herself) — though she rents the 
building from the government.
	From the cafe I had a look inside the Anglican Church (St. Mary the Virgin Church) 
and remembered someone mentioning that there were no sermons on Sunday at present, 
because it would be a few months before the new priest would arrive (services were currently 
being conducted by local lay priests). Quite a nice church, it had a large electric organ 
	Continuing to stroll around, I passed a lady (perhaps in her 60s) also out for a walk.  
I don't know if she saw me coming from the church or not (she was wearing a cross for a 
necklace), but her reaction to my "hello" was much different than other locals — instead of 
just answering back "hello" while passing, she greeted me with a smile, asked how I was 
doing, and stopped to talk with me for a while.  As we were standing in front of a house with 
a ham antenna, I asked her whose house it was... she told me it was Jimmy Glass' (the 
Chief Islander) — though Andy and Lorraine (two locals already on board the RMS, ready to 
head to the UK for few months of study) were also ham operators.  I know that as just a 
visitor to Tristan I must respect the feelings and attitudes of the locals (as it's their island!) 
— but the friendliess and willingness of this one lady to chat with a stranger for a bit really 
made me feel better after having witnessed the way everyone in the cafe closed up as soon 
as I walked through the door.
	Continuing to meander around the settlement, I soon ran into Graham — who 
mentioned an Islander's reception at 6:00pm for the visiting guests (the Governor, the 
journalists, satellite techs, etc.) — but of course, the few "normal" RMS passengers staying 
on the island weren't invited.  I very much wanted to attend this reception if for no other 
reason than it would be interesting to see... Graham didn't mind, but of course I didn't have 
an invitation.
	Graham also mentioned he just saw a penguin out by the water where all the large 
black volcanic rocks were — so splitting up, I went to have a look myself.  Following his 
directions on where to turn off the dirt path, I climbed over the large, loose rocks for quite a 
while trying to see the shore below... but had no luck, and didn't see one penguin.  
Disappointed, I finally started heading back... but coming down the dirt road from the other 
direction was none other than the new doc and his two kids in the official ambulance Land 
Rover, taking it out for a spin.  When I told them I was looking for penguins but couldn't 
find any, the doc said to hop in, as they had seen them all over the dock area earlier, and 
would show me where they were (at the fish factory before, I did try looking by the docks 
myself, but didn't see any penguins).  Giving me a lift, we stopped by the docks and walked 
down, with the kids eagerly trying to find the penguins again for me.  Soon, the daughter 
found one hidden in the breakwater stones (next to a discarded orange Fanta can), and 
another one nearby.  Thanking the kids (as well as the dad), we then split up, as they 
needed to get ready for the reception, and I needed to walk back to the house.
	It was now 5:30pm, and I wanted to shower and change out of my dusty clothes.  The 
RMS left for Inaccessible Island at 4:40pm, (it was to sail by Inaccessible Island and anchor 
off it tonight — something I'd miss, but was happy to give up in order to spend more time on 
Tristan), and as I thought about it, I realized Tristanians don't have the same fondness for 
the RMS as Saints do — for as the RMS is the lifeblood of St. Helena, it's the Kelso and 
Edinburgh fishing vessels which are important to Tristanians.  With the RMS gone 
(hopefully to return), I was able to have a glimpse of what the island is normally like without 
dozens of tourists wandering around it.
	In Monica's kitchen, I mentioned wanting to go to the reception... Monica's reply was 
"but you don't have an invitation, do you?" — but when I said that I had hoped to meet 
Jimmy Glass before leaving (both because he's the Chief Islander as well being a ham — as 
I've always been interested in ham radio and shortwave), Warren chimed in that Jimmy 
would be at the reception, and said it'd be ok for me to come along — he'd introduce me to 
him.  While Warren dressed up in a white shirt with black jeans (and a two-way radio), I had 
the choice between clean shorts or dusty, dirty long slacks. Deciding on the slacks (with the 
long-sleeve shirt), we left at 6:05pm to go down to the school, where the reception was 
taking place.
	The school was packed tonight, with lots of locals as well as guests... and as drinks 
were made at a make-shift bar, small hors d'ouevres on toothpicks were being served by 
roaming locals (not wanting to impose too much, I took just one toothpick and a tiny slice of 
pizza).  Among the guests was Bryan (seemingly a bit surprised to see me) and Liz, the 
Governor and his wife, the journalists, the new and old doctors and their families, and the 
satellite techs.  Jimmy hadn't arrived yet, but I was immediately asked if I wanted a drink (I 
accepted a Coke), and everyone was friendly, open, and warm — not just to me, but to each 
other (if for no other reason, I'm glad I attended the event because it allowed me to see the 
islanders' warmer side, which isn't always displayed when tourists are around).  A group of 
men were sitting on the edge of the school stage, and as we chatted and joked around, I told 
them I'd play the keyboard only if one of them sang (as the stage had 3 Casio keyboards, a 
drum set, and an electric guitar).  Some handwritten music was resting on one of the 
keyboards (including "When The Saints Go Marching In") — and though all were 
monophonic (with only a melody line), "Saints" also had the guitar chords notated.
	A few minutes later Jimmy arrived, and Warren introduced me as Don was asking 
him some questions.  A friendly fellow, we talked a bit about everything from ham radio to 
island politics: he's in his third term as Chief Islander, and (among many other duties) 
serves on the Council, is a pig farmer, a lay minister at the Catholic Church, and a diver 
(saying the visibility is about 15m in the area)... though he's able to talk with people from all 
over the world on his ham rig (including many from the States), he has regular schedules 
with ham buddies on the US east coast, St. Helena, and Japan (usually in the 40m range)... 
there are 3 lay ministers for the Catholic Church who rotate weekly until the new priest 
arrives in a couple of months... most items on the island are jacked up 15%-40% for 
shipping costs, but some are subsidized to help defray the expense... liquor has a 150% 
tarrif — so "drinking is kind of patriotic!" Jimmy smiled, as the government relies on the 
income for a large source of its revenue (the stashes of Castle beer will usually last 6 
months)... just about all islanders have camping huts on Nightingale Island, and if the 
volcano erupts again, it would be the place to evacuate to... there is no tax on the island... 
and people here help each other, never charging money for their services (this would be seen 
as an insult).
	After talking for a while with Jimmy, I was ready to leave (as I didn't want to overstay 
my welcome).  After thanking Liz once again for being so nice, I walked outside to the 
courtyard area (the school is shaped like a square, with a courtyard in the center)... there, 
Warren was hanging out with some boisterous buddies who offered me a beer (everyone was 
drunk), and we joked around for a bit.  Looking around, I once again noticed the seperation 
between the sexes — those not in the school hall were separated by gender, with the guys 
hanging out together, and the women working to prepare and serve the food.
	Just as I was ready to leave, Jimmy stood up inside the hall to make a speech — so I 
peered in from the outside to hear it.  Saying goodbye to the old doctor and his family, he 
joked that his advice for the new doc is to take any advice given to him by the old doc — 
except on how to catch fish. The old doc was absolutely loved by everyone on the island, and 
it showed as they all wished him goodbye (I was constantly told by locals how good he was, 
and how he and his wife and kids would really be missed... apparently, the doc wouldn't 
take ANY chances with people's health, and if something seemed questionable, instead of 
advising them to wait, he'd get them on the next transport to Cape Town for treatment).  
After Jimmy's speech, the Governor stood up, mentioning that he had just been informed 2 
minutes ago that he was to give a speech.  Doing an excellent job, the Governor told 
everyone how impressed he was with the island's self-relaince, commenting that he wants to 
try some of the same ideas (such as stamps and commemerative coins) back on St. Helena.  
He went on to point out how, with St. Helena's high unemployment rate, Tristan enjoys full 
employment — and that while there will be 150 applications for 30 overseas openings from 
Saints, Tristan can't even fill their quota, with islanders content to stay at home.  He also 
mentioned how happy he was to see so many young people on the Council, commenting that 
on St. Helena, most councilmembers are in their 60s and 70s.  Including a few jokes, his 
speech was quite well-received (as was Jimmy's).
	With the speeches over, I walked through the school before leaving, having a look 
around some of the classrooms... there was one with about 7-8 computers in it (no internet 
though), and up on the chalkboard of the same room was the music to "The First Noel."
	Walking up the hill at 7:00pm, I ran into two friendly kids: Glenda Swain (10) and 
Patrick Green (7) riding bikes, eager to talk with me and tell me everything about anything... 
when I told them my name, they said "we have another Larry on the island... but you look 
more like Jeremy..." (telling this to John Elsmore, I managed to meet this "Jeremy" person 
the next day — and sure enough, we do look a little alike).  Talking to me about everything 
from giants to the fact that Carol Swain (on the RMS) is Glenda's godmother, they would 
have been happy to talk to me all evening had I not needed to return back to Monica's (as it 
was already getting quite late for dinner).  Asking if I could take their picture, I wound up 
sending it to them (in care of Monica) after returning home.
	As I walked into Monica and Ed's at 7:25pm, the lady from the Craft Centre was 
there chatting with Monica, having delivered the lost fist-day envelope for me to bring back 
to the RMS.  Apologizing for being so late, I explained that Glenda and Patrick had stopped 
to talk with me — and when I told them that the kids had said I looked like "Jeremy", 
everyone laughed and agreed.  By now, people had opened up more (perhaps because the 
RMS was gone?), and the Craft Centre lady expressed surprise herself at how surprised a 
tourist had been upon finding out that admission to the Museum was free.
	Dinner that night was chicken with stuffing, sausage, cabbage, corn, fries, and 
spotted dick cake (pudding — don't laugh, that's what it's called... we were served it on the 
RMS as well) with ice-cream and cling peaches.  Over dinner, we talked about various 
things: Ed commented that the current north-easterly wind meant that perhaps some bad 
weather was coming... there is a fire department (part of Search & Rescue), and the last big 
fire was about 5 years ago (an electrical fire in an ex-pat's house, after which the islanders 
donated clothing and other items to help him out)... and both Ed and Monica commented 
once again on how wonderful and well-liked the outgoing doctor was.
	Having heard Monica ask one of the young guys who stopped by earlier (Leon) if he 
was going to the dance, I inquired about it, and was told that there was indeed a disco 
tonight at Prince Philip Hall, and I was welcome to attend.  When Conrad came home, he sat 
down in front of the TV, eager to watch some new videos that had just arrived in the RMS' 
mail... when I asked if he was going to the pub or the dance, he said no... as usually 
because of his job he's had to give up drinking (with last night being an exception).
	 With the dance taking place in the gym side of Prince Philip Hall (where the mail had 
been handed out the other night), I first stopped in at the pub for a bit.  There, I saw Carol 
(happy to have been able to see family and friends before returning back to her RMS duties 
tomorrow) as well as all the other ex-pats.  After being introduced by Simon to the family he 
was staying with and chatting with the vulcanologist, I met up and talked with John 
Elsmore for a bit.  A friendly fellow from the UK, John is the "8th name" on the island now, 
as he, his wife, and young daughter have settled on Tristan, at least for the time being.  
Originally from the UK, he's been trying to teach himself guitar, and even though his 
progress has been slow, I urged him to continue, as it's something he really enjoys doing.  
When the subject of Hanny came up, he said the reason she's unliked on the island is 
because of her personality: apparently she has barged into people's homes to ask them 
questions, and has made comments such as "your dress is dirty" — and Tristan is the one 
place where you cannot be pushy.
	Dylis rang the "last drinks" bell at 9:30pm, and at 9:45pm I left the pub to have a 
look in at the dance across the hall.  When I had first walked into the building earlier and 
peeked in at the dance, the room seemed pretty empty even with the music playing — but 
now the dance was in full swing, and there was a nice-sized crowd inside as rock music 
played and disco lights flashed in the dark room.  Bryan was dancing with 6 girls, but this 
was the exception: everywhere else on the dance floor there was only one gal to each guy, 
and in something quite different than what I'm used to, the girls don't just walk out onto the 
dance floor to dance, they must first be invited by a guy (along one wall were all the young 
ladies, sitting there until being asked by a gentleman to dance).  As I walked in, a local guy 
came up to say hello, and asked if I wanted to dance... but as I didn't know anyone there, I 
just said "that's ok"... he insisted though, saying "it's alright!" — and brought me over to 
meet his wife, introducing us, and setting it up so I could go out and dance with her on the 
floor (to the theme from "Flashdance").  When the song was over I thanked her, and just 
hung out on the side for a bit... but a few minutes later the guy came back to ask if I wanted 
to dance some more — and this time, introduced me to a nice young lady named Maria.  We 
shared a good fast song, and it was a lot of fun.  When finished, I thanked Maria and left to 
return to the house, walking back under a beautiful clear, starry night, and glad that I had 
attended the dance.
	Back at Monica's by 10:20pm, I could still hear the music from the dance going 
strong for well over another hour.  Walking into the bedroom, there on the bed was a 
computer-printed bill/receipt for £40 for two nights' accomodation on the island, with a 
notice to please pay at the Treasury (I was going to pay Monica and Ed directly tomorrow, 
but I guess the routine is for people to pay at the Treasury office).  Starting to write in my 
journal, I heard the sound of drizzle about an hour later — and by 11:30pm, heard the 
sound of rain (Ed had indeed been correct with his prediction, but there had been a clear 
sky just an hour ago!)  As the rain began to fall, my first thought was "uh-oh"... I hoped the 
rain wouldn't mean trouble trying to re-board the RMS, and had a fleeting moment of panic 
wondering what would happen if I was stuck on the island for a few weeks until the 
Edinburgh left.  The rain stopped, but soon started up again even harder a bit later as I 
continued to write.  Expecting the lights to shut off at 12:00am midnight, I was surprised 
when they were still on at 12:30am — but perhaps it was because tonight was something of 
a special occasion (dances are usually held on Saturday nights, but with the doctor and his 
family leaving tomorrow, I think everyone considered tonight to be a farewell party).  At 
12:45am, the electricity finally went off, and after remembering to turn off the switch this 
time, I continued writing my journal by flashlight until 1:20am.  With my desire to wake up 
early to watch the cows being milked, I set my watch for 5:00am, and knew I'd only have a 
few hours of sleep tonight.
	Misc. info: earlier in the evening, Monica had given me a gift of two pair of hand-
knitted socks (one white and one grey), each with two rings on them (the rings symbolize the 
level of friendship the giver has towards the receiver — one ring means you're an 
acquaintance, two rings means you're friends, and three rings means a whole lot more)... 
earlier as well, Sheila mentioned that she once had a cat, as at one time there were cats on 
the island — but the doctor at the time thought they were responsible for spreading disease, 
so he forced them all to be put to sleep.  Now there are just black-and-white dogs, which all 
look alike.

Jan. 25: Tristan da Cunha [Cow Milking / Pigbite] / RMS
	Though my alarm was set for 5:00am, I woke up on my own at 4:48am.  Having been 
told by Don that the cow milkings happen at 5:00am, I slowly crept outside with my 
flashlight, so as not to wake up anyone else in the house.  Wearing my lightweight 
windbreaker, I soon took it off — as even before dawn it was actually quite pleasant and 
clear.  After wandering through the quiet settlement for a while without seeing anyone else 
about, I began to worry that I might be in the wrong place... I walked over to where the cows 
were (both by the cemetery as well as by the volcano), but most were still asleep.  In a way, 
walking around before anyone else was up was kind of neat... the electricity hadn't yet been 
turned on, and the settlement was completey quiet.  After 45 minutes, I finally saw someone 
walking around outside his house... going up to him to say hello, he told me that the cow 
milkings usually don't start until 6:00am or a little before, and pointed out where to go.  
Sure enough, at 5:50am I heard the shouts of a lady calling out for her cow — though it 
soon stopped and became quiet again.
	One thing to mention about the cows on Tristan: they must be the smartest cows in 
the world.  I've always thought of cows as being stupid, but on Tristan, they're trained to 
come when the ladies call them — and as hard as it is to believe, it's true: the cows all 
recognize their owners' voices, and come to be milked when they hear their names shouted 
(looking forward not to the milking so much as the potatoes the ladies give to appease them 
during milking).  As each family is allowed two cows in the prime grazing area, many will 
give both cows the same name so that both will come when one name is called.
	Shortly after 6:00am I began to hear the shouts of other ladies in the distance, and 
soon caught up with Jean Swain (a nice Tristanian who's been to the UK)... she was calling 
her cows, but they weren't anywhere to be seen, as she commented that they probably 
wandered over to Pigbite where the grazing was currently better.  Saying that her auntie 
would now have to take care of the milking (as she had to get ready for work), she left.  The 
next lady I ran into also couldn't find her cows, but at 6:30am I met Trina, who spotted hers 
off in the distance.  Yelling out "Fortune!  Fortune!" (the name she had given both her cows), 
I watched as they wandered over to Trina and her friend.
	Before milking begins, the cow's hind legs are tied together to prevent it from kicking, 
and each is given some potatoes in a bucket to eat while being milked (watching as someone 
else's cow followed Trina as well, she commented that they're eager to come because they 
know there are potatoes in the bucket).  Both Trina and her friend managed to get quite a lot 
of milk, but as both cows had recently had calves, they only milked what was needed before 
untying the hind legs and letting the calves in to get some.  After watching I offered to help 
carry one of the large buckets, and walked with Trina and her friend back to their house 
(where the milk will first be boiled before being consumed).  Having never seen a real cow 
milking before, it was quite interesting.
	At 6:50am I was back at Monica's, and Sheila was up already with her foot hurting 
quite a bit (she would take the day off from school to see the new doctor about it).  Being 
served freshly-baked bread for breakfast (along with eggs, bacon, and toast), Monica 
mentioned that automatic bread-making machines are popular on the island, though they 
don't have one themselves.  Having some fresh Tristan water from the tap, I commented on 
how pure and light it tasted... Monica told me that when Warren returned from St. Helena 
(where water is rationed), she was amused at how he kept bugging her not to let the tap run 
— as water is plentiful on Tristan.  Unlike mineral waters such as Evian (which to me have a 
definite taste), Tristan water is light and pure with absolutely no taste at all (exactly how I 
like my water), and if it ever does wind up being sold overseas, I'll certainly buy some.
	Monica, Ed, and Connie (Conrad) have a total of 17 patches for themselves scattered 
in different areas, and today Ed was going to walk (for exercise) out to the family patches to 
work on them — though he'd take the bus back later.  When I asked about the bus, he said 
there is a set schedule, but you're not allowed to bring any packages, potatoes, or other 
vegetables on board.  They usually begin planting in July or August (winter in the southern 
hemisphere) and harvest between September and February.  Often they will rotate both the 
crops and fertilizer type to help keep the soil healthy... and once the potatoes are harvested, 
they're stored in the sheds out by the patches.  As I'd probably be gone by the time he 
returned, I said goodbye to Ed and thanked him for his hospitality.
	After breakfast I went out for a bit, running into Simon and John Elsmore... Simon 
had misplaced his camera, and was telling Connie about it.  After reporting on the camera, 
the three of us walked down to Pigbite (the area on the other side of the volcano, towards the 
water) to have a look at some seals.  Along the way we passed a lot of cows, and John told 
us people are able to tell the cows apart by marking their ears in a special way (there was a 
fence to keep the cows out, but as grazing was much better here, the cows had broken 
through and were now grazing where they shouldn't be).  We then passed the island 
junkyard/garbage dump, and though we didn't spend any time sifting through it, Graham 
later mentioned he had spent some time there the other day, and had found some 
interesting old items.
	After walking through a muddy field (due to the rain last night), we reached the rocks 
by the water, where quite a few seals were out relaxing and playing.  There were also some 
rockhopper penguins around, and John even picked one up to let us to have a closer look.
	Walking back, John told us a little bit about island life: he, along with his Tristanian 
wife and young daughter live in a 10-year-old house (built by an ex-pat who left the island) 
which they bought for £10,500/US$15,750 with furniture... Radio Tristan operates daily 
from 9:00am-11:00am, plus a few hours in the late afternoon on Mondays, Wednesdays, 
and Fridays (with Friday having a show hosted by the doctor — and both the Administrator 
and Hanny have shows as well).  John ought to know the schedule for the radio station, as 
he has no job on the island, and spends most of his time at home looking after his daughter 
and learning guitar.  The reason he doesn't have a job is because not being a native 
Tristanian, he hasn't been allowed to have one (at least for now) — for as there's virtually no 
permanent immigration to the island, laws regarding newcomers are often made up on the 
spot.  There are times when it seems islanders don't want anyone around with experience in 
matters, because on some level it means that the person with experience might be better 
than everyone else.  For instance, John's Tristanian wife was fully trained in the UK as a 
nurse, but quit the island hospital because the people she was supposed to teach didn't 
want to be taught.  While not an expert with computers, John still had some knowledge of 
how they work, and recently fixed a problem back in Cape Town similar to what the island's 
computer was experiencing — yet no one asked for his help even after a fellow islander who 
knew about John's experience recommended Jimmy ask him (John volunteering himself 
would be awkward on Tristan, and isn't the custom here).  He gets a pension from his old 
job, and his wife is on call at the hospital part-time if there's an emergency, but not being 
allowed to have a job means he has a lot of spare time on his hands.  He won't be able to 
vote for 5 years — and even though his wife is a Tristanian born and rasied on the island, 
she won't be allowed to vote for another 2 years because of having left to go overseas for an 
extended period of time.  Mentioning that most people on the island have at most only 6 
months of training, he said they do an excellent job nonetheless, citing the teachers as an 
example.  As his daughter is young now (10 or 11), they're content to stay on the island, but 
will probably move back to the UK at some point when his daughter gets older (in order for 
her to continue her education past the age of 15).  Even with the downsides though, John 
loves the island and its people, and is quite practical about living there, accepting the 
customs and conditions that come with life on Tristan.
	Walking back we passed Richard (one of the guides from the Base walk) by the 
volcanic rocks, and soon found ourselves back at the school.  As Simon wanted to say 
goodbye to someone working there, we were given permission to enter a classroom... while 
John said hello to his daughter and talked with the teacher a bit, I looked around the 
room... the classroom was small yet nice, with one wall displaying the Chinese Zodiac 
animals along with the names of local kids born under the corresponding years.  Walking 
out, I had a second look in at the multi-purpose room, re-checking the year on the plaque 
(which indicated the school was built in 1975).
	From the school I next walked over to the government building to pay the £40 for 
accomodation at the treasury... and on the way back, stopped once more at the store.  
Curious to see if I'd actually be charged more for toothpaste as a visitor (as it's subsidized 
for islanders), I decided to pick up a small tube of Colgate for 22p/33c along with some 
chocolate wafers (25p/38c) — and the cashier just rung the itmes up at the marked price, 
without charging the higher visitor price (not needing the toothpaste, I offered it to friends 
and fellow passengers on the RMS later, but in the end gave it to Nigel in case anyone came 
to him needing toothpaste — also giving him the Avomine as well).  A sign up on the wall of 
the store mentioned some newly arrived "medicines" (items like Vicks, multi-vitamins, etc.), 
and thinking it might be a good idea to pick up some extra vitamins, I told the cashier I'd 
like to buy some.  She first said I'd need to get them at the hospital — but then took out a 
bag of items from the hospital and asked if it was what I wanted.  Saying it was, she gave me 
a small ziploc baggie containing 30 tiny orange multi-vitamins for 50p/75c.
	Outside the store I ran into Bryan, who I stopped to thank for helping me stay on the 
island.  Then, realizing that I had collected quite a few items over the past few weeks, I went 
back inside the store to see if they had any duffel bags for sale.  They had only a cheap, 
lightweight plastic grey duffel for £6.69/US$10.04, but I bought it anyway, figuring I'd 
probably need it later in the trip.
	Walking back to the house I realized just how fast the weather can change here... last 
night it was clear coming home from the dance, yet raining just a bit later... early this 
morning I didn't even need the jacket I had taken with me, though a few hours later with 
John it became quite cool.  However at only 10:30am, it was once again sunny and warm.
	Back at Monica's, I stuffed the empty grey bag into my pack and sat down for an 
early lunch at 10:45am (a delicious crayfish curry rice that Monica made for me).  Sheila 
had just come from seeing the new doctor about her sprained ankle, and now had a light 
cast around it.  Saying the new doctor seemed OK, everyone once again brought up how 
great the departing doctor was (he would come at any hour, arrange a medivac to South 
Africa at the slightest hint of a problem, and always have a smile on his face).  The old doc, 
along with his wife and two young teenage boys would go to Australia next for the boys' 
education, and would be a hard act to follow.  While eating, Carol (from the RMS) dropped 
by to say a final goodbye to Monica before she was off for another year away from Tristan, 
and as she hugged Sheila, I could see that this was hard on her, for even if she chooses to 
live overseas, she has family and friends here that she grew up with... it had been two years 
since the last time she was able to visit, and it would be at least another full year before 
she'd be able to return.
	After saying my own goodbyes to Monica and thanking her for everything (as well as 
leaving her my water bottle and empty 35mm film containers to store things in), I too started 
down for the docks.  The RMS was supposed to return at 11:00am, but over lunch word 
filtered in that it would be 11:15am (with passengers requested to be at the docks by 
11:00am).  However it wasn't actually until 11:45am that the RMS showed up, and it would 
be even longer until any of us could get on board (a bit earlier in the day, we were told to 
place all luggage for the ship onto the scooper part of an earthmover... and I hoped that my 
pack wouldn't be lost or damaged).
	Standing by the dock with the RMS now anchored offshore, the entire island seemed 
to come out to say their goodbyes to Carol and the departing doctor (with Carol, the doctor, 
and the doctor's family walking through a line of well-wishers, saying goodbye to each 
person).  Watching all of this, I spotted John with his wife and daughter (school was 
dismissed so people could see the doctor off), and talked to them for a bit.  As all this was 
going on, the "cage" for the Governor and his party had to be readied, and this took quite a 
while: apparently because of an incident with a former (overweight) Mrs. Governor who 
slipped and fell while trying to board a launch, custom is now that the Governor and his 
party sit down inside a cage, and have it lifted up and set down onto the launch by way of a 
crane.  Neither the Governor nor the Misses seemed to care much for this, but after a long 
wait, we finally all watched (and took pictures) as the cage was hoisted up into the air and 
set down inside the small launch, carrying the Governor, his wife, and Andrew (an older 
Tristanian going to Cape Town for a hernia operation).
	Finally we all boarded the launch except for Don (who would be on the following one), 
with the cage containing the Governor, the Misses, and Andrew right next to me in the little 
boat.  Heading back to the RMS, I was amazed at how clear the ocean water was here — so 
crystal clear that I could see every little imperfection on the RMS' hull in front of me.  Both 
the rope ladder and the gangway were down, but though I really wanted to try the rope 
ladder, the Captain insisted all passengers use the gangway.  One by one we all went up, 
and from the RMS, I watched the launch return to the island to pick up the luggage, the 
kayak, and Don.  While final preperations to leave were being made, I went to grab a light 
lunch upstairs (Chinese beef slices and a 55p Coke Light), and sat out on deck to look at 
Tristan from a distance.
	After some time the ship finally pulled up anchor, and while talking with the other 
passengers (whom I hadn't seen in a few days), I looked at the island from a distance as the 
Captain sailed around it to the other side before heading out to the open sea.  On board I 
met and talked with Andrew a bit (the older Tristanian going to Cape Town for a hernia 
operation), and watched as Tristan slowly faded off into the distance, with its volcanic peak 
finally visible.  Though I had missed a chance to see Inaccessible Island up close (opting 
instead to stay on Tristan overnight), we were now headed for Nightingale, and borrowing 
someone's binoculars, I could see all the tiny camping huts the islanders had placed on the 
island.  Off the coast of Nightingale we passed the Edinburgh fishing ship, with its crew 
waving at us and blowing their horn — as well as a small little fishing boat belonging to an 
islander.  On Nightingale itself there were hundreds of birds — and though I couldn't see 
them from that distance with the naked eye, with binoculars, they looked like hundreds of 
specks of moving dust.  Sailing past Nightingale, there were some beautiful views of it as 
well as Tristan off in the distance, basking in the warm weather.
	One of the first things I did back on the ship was go down to the laundry room and 
wash my clothes (the ones I had taken with me onto the island were sweaty and dusty — 
and the ones I had left behind now all smelled of cigarettes, thanks to Willie smoking in the 
room while I was on the island).  Also in the laundry room was the Governor and his wife (it 
appeared they had the same idea) — and when the Governor pressed the wrong key on the 
washing machine (pressing START again instead of OPEN), the Misses dug into him, yelling 
extremely unkind words right there in public (I myself made the mistake of forgetting to put 
some underwear into the wash, and wound up washing them by hand in the sink there).  
After sitting down to catch up on my journal for a while, a passenger pointed out a huge 
school of dolphins (light grey on the bottom and dark grey/black on top) off the starboard 
bow at 4:25pm — first they heading towards us before changing course to swim alongside 
the ship.  Looking out back from the sun deck, I could still see Tristan off in the distance, 
and along with Simon, watched until it was slowly no longer visible with the haze at around 
6:35pm.  With Tristan now out of view, I went down below to take my clothes out of the 
dryer and finally put on my sandals.
	At dinner that night I wore shorts, and Tubby commented on it, saying "Shorts?  
Larry!" — but not wanting to change, I said my long pants were dirty and being washed at 
the moment (they actually WERE still a bit dirty, as the machine hadn't removed all the 
stains — though they'd be good enough to wear on subsequent nights to dinner).  Before 
landing at Tristan, Michael had come up to me to ask if I wanted to change my dinner 
seating... I was happy to be asked, for though there was nothing wrong with Udo, Tanya, or 
Andre, I just didn't seem to have anything in common with them.  Michael suggested sitting 
at a table with some of the journalists, and it worked out perfectly: at the table was Graham, 
Don, Callin, Simon, myself, and Liz (a nice lady who works and lives in Victoria Falls, 
Zimbabwe).  As with the St. Helena "Table 16" group, I actually looked forward to dinner 
now each night, as conversation with these folks was really quite fun.  One other nice 
benefit of moving was that the waitress for this table (in the far corner of the room) was 
Carol Swain, the RMS' one Tristanian — a sweet person who does an excellent job.  As with 
everyone else, Carol at first kept calling me "sir" — before I told her just to call me "Larry" (to 
which the others at the table chimed in with similar requests).  Carol was just doing her job 
as trained of course, but (call me an American), I'd rather be friends with someone than 
have them address me as "sir."  While drinking the ship's water, I joked with Carol that I 
wished I could be drinking Tristan water right now — to which she told me she had brought 
five bottles of Tristan water with her onto the ship, and asked if I wanted one of them.  Not 
wanting to accept at first (as it should be her water), she insisted that it was OK, saying she 
had already given two of them out to some of the staff — so I nodded my head and said 
"sure, if you can spare it!"  Saying she'd make sure to get one to me, the next day there was 
a 2-litre Coke bottle filled with pure Tristan water waiting in my cabin.
	After dinner I walked out onto the back of the top deck at 8:00pm for a half-hour, 
and not one person came outside.  Enjoying the quiet, I noticed it was cloudy now, though 
the weather was still warm and the water smooth.  At 9:00pm I went into the children's 
room to watch the Disney short "Reluctant Dragon" until the music quiz began at 9:30pm... 
with many (but not all) of the same questions as the music quiz on the St. Helena run, our 
team managed to come in second (winning one bottle of champagne — though I was too 
tired to stay up and didn't find out we had even won until the next morning).  Sitting there 
in the lounge, I felt a pang of sadness to be back on the ship again, already missing Tristan 
a little, and knowing that I'd once again be stuck on the RMS for almost a week.
T R I S T A N     T I M E S
	Here are some stories found inside the most current edition of the Tristan Times:
	There is a report on the eradication of Sagina Procumbens grass on Gough Island 
from Jan. 20th to Feb. 14th (in which Warren Glass was one of the two people to travel to 
the island to help eradicate the weed using two handheld spray pumps) — over £60,000 was 
given by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London to support a full-scale eradication 
programme to remove all alien weed on the island.
	"Sorry, You Can't Retire Yet!: A working group of retirees agreed to take on the task of 
rebuilding the road to the east of the settlement.  This road is going to be heavily used for 
the building of the new harbour, the drawing of stone for the new Administration Building, 
and the new Septic tank, as well as private buildings.  The road was expertly finished, and 
the group were hastily employed on the Septic tank..."
	"Tristan's First Dual Carriageway!: A black-spot area was identified on the road out to 
the Patches — the answer has been to build a short dual carriageway area leading the 
increasing number of cars separately away from the danger area.  Again, due to the increase 
in traffic flow (both private and island equipment) several other danger areas were identified 
and "sleeping policemen" [speed bumps] have been built and safety barriers installed, 
particularly where children may be in danger."
	"A New Hat For Hadmin!: There was a serious danger of the Hadmin being washed 
away, and several key offices were flooded badly during one of the wettest periods for many 
years.  So it was decided to re-roof the Admin. building before further destruction occured.  
Fortunately, a couple of dry days allowed the reroofing to be completed in record time — in 
the nick of time, as since then, the roof has been well and truly tested!"
	"Island Store — 'Canteen': I am sure Christopher Beadle of BESO who came to the 
Island last year to advise on some organisational revamping of the store will be pleased to 
hear that two new display cabinet fridges have been installed, which have prolonged the life 
of our last order of fruit as well as improving the display of the chilled goods — and a space 
to chill our cool drinks for those hot summer days.  A large freezer room using 
environmentally-friendly gas has also just been built with a capacity of 3557cu ft..."
	"Welcome Back!: Samantha Green, Leon Glass, and Warren Glass returned from their 
two years of education overseas.  Samantha and Warren studied their GCSEs in St. Helena, 
and Leon was accepted at Denstone College in the UK.  Samantha is now Cashier in the 
Treasury Department, Warren is appointed to Natural Resources Department, and Leon is 
Information Technology Adviser."
	"We would like to offer congratulations to the young people who left the island last 
year: Shirley Swain achieved a high award for her Arts Course; Hazel Swain has done very 
well as a Dental Nurse, and is now training to become a Dental Technician; Melanie Glass 
has a full-time job in a Bank, and has undertaken many training courses; Geraldine Rogers 
has had several promotions within the Catering Trade, and her brother Gerald accepted into 
the Queen's Own Regiment of the British Army.  Our congratulations to him on being 
awarded a medal for excellence at his Passing Out Ceremony.  And it is with great pleasure 
that we hear of the wedding of Karen Lavarello in Switzerland.  She will be going to the 
United States with her husband Daniel Schreier, who has taken a research post for two 
years at a University in South Carolina."
	"Education and Appreciation: The Administration have negotiated an enhanced and 
more flexible training package with the Department for International Development, which 
allows for two people to have a 12 month training period or two people to have 6 months.  
The first two people to take advantage under the new arrangement are Allan and Marlene 
Swain.  Marlene will be taking further teacher's training, a priority of the scheme. Allan's 
further training is in satellite communications, radio programming, and computer 
technology.  Leon Glass also undertook courses for two months (funded by the Tristan 
Government) in computer technology whilst in Cape Town returning from his two years at 
school in the UK at Denstone College."
	"Island Training: Inspector Conrad Glass spent 4 weeks teaching cycling proficiency 
to the school children.  This has become a priority due to the increased number of vehicles 
on the island."
	"Late Extra!: We are very grateful for the thoughtful offer made recently by Ovenstone 
to divert one of their fishing vessels to assist with a possible emergency medical evacuation 
of an islander.  This is a further indication of the very close cooperation that exists between 
the Company and the Island."
	"Pensioners' Annual Dinner: There are two events a year especially for Pensioners — 
a dinner during the Christmas period and a winter tea.  Each occasion requires two separate 
parties due to the number of Pensioners on Tristan (over 60 in total).  Some entertainment is 
planned each year, and this year the School choir kindly agreed to perform for the dinner 
parties. Marlene, the headmistress, led with her keyboard, and the children sang 
	"Sports Equipment: To encourage more recreational exercise for the benefit of the 
long-term health of the island and the reduction of the medical budget (!) new cricket and 
football equipment has been bought.  As the winter has been so wet and wild, it has been 
difficult to start using this equipment seriously.  The Youth Club has been using the cricket 
gear for indoor cricket in the Prince Philip Hall, and managed to play one outdoor game on a 
fine day.  It is hoped to start Sunday football and cricket games so that we can improve our 
record when challenging the visiting naval vessels!"
	"The Dawn of the Year 2000 on Tristan da Cunha: New Years's Eve 1999 and New 
Year's Day 2000 were celebrated with all due pomp and circumstance on our dear island.  
Jimmy and Felicity Glass again excelled themselves by organising a great party at St. Mary's 
School.  Even the weather was perfect: a beautifully clear evening with a soft cool breeze 
blowing seaward from the braai-fires on the tennis court.  Great food, plenty of liquid 
refreshment, a great speech by Jimmy in which he outlined the achievements of the 20th 
century on Tristan and the expected greater achievements of future years; and a great spirit 
amongst all present resulted in a most memorable evening.  The church bells rang the new 
century in and a magnificent fireworks display on American Field put the cherries on the 
top. Warm thanks to Bryan Baldwin [the current Administrator] and Ovenstone [the fishing 
company] for the supply of the colourful spectacle.  Footnote: Tristan da Cunha enjoyed the 
minor distinction of being the first inhabited land West of the 0-degree meridian to greet the 
new century."
	"St. Joseph's News: Father Richard Obenhauser arrived on the Edinburgh on the 8th 
Sept. 1999.  He was, as he said, one of 26 "passengers" — the others being a pig and two 
dozen hens.  Father Richard comes from Austria, from a region known as the Tyrol, and is 
the son of a farmer.  During his time on the island, he fitted in very well with the life of the 
community as a whole and was beloved by all at St. Joseph's.  Father Richard left on the 
Edinburgh in February to return to his home, and we wish him every success in his work 
	A full page is devoted to Shipping News (mostly concerning the Kelso and the 
Edinburgh, though also covering the SA Agulhas and other vessels).  As well, there is a 
section on "Visiting Ships And Yachts."
	A full page is devoted to Anglican "Church of Saint Mary the Virgin" News.
	A report on "The Last Visitors of the 20th Century", detailing the visit of the Royal 
Navy Ship HMS Grey Rover (in which everything from a braai/BBQ to a golf game was 
organized for the visitors).
	A story about fishing: "A Japanese long-line fishing vessel (Showa Maru) called in 
August to collect a fishing license for long-line fishing, and Norman Glass was taken aboard 
as Observer.  The vessel left after 3 days, maintaining that it could not fish effectively, as the 
water was not suitable for their targeted species of fish.  Norman reported that their fishing 
practices were not in accordance with the license conditions, and a number of albatross 
were hooked on the lines.  A report has been made to London with a request for action with 
the Japanese authorities in Tokyo, and a number of other measures to safeguard albatross 
are being actively considered with the Environmental Department of the Foreign and 
Commonwealth Office in London.  The various species of albatross are protected birds, and 
the Tristan islands are a significant breeding area for them.  We are therefore taking 
seriously any threat to them by fishing vessels.
	Ratting Day 2000: The first Ratting Day in the year 2000 was a much looked-forward 
to event.  This is when the islanders split up into several teams named after areas around 
the potato patches.  Each team splits up into two groups.  One group takes the dogs (which 
are trained to hunt out the rats) and hunts them around the hillside and amongst the 
stones.  The second group hunts around the patches in the area of their team name.  The 
teams cut the tails of the captured mice, with prizes for the longest tail and the most tails 
(the most tails are judged by the total number of tails in the group divided by the total 
number of people in that group, giving you a total number of tails per man — thus if you 
have a small group you are at a slight advantage because your grand total need not be so 
high).  The results were as follows: third place was Below the Hill with 12 group members 
and an average of 26.  Second place was Redbody Hill with 3 group members and an average 
of 37.  And in this year's first place was Daily's Hill with 4 group members and an average of 
67.  The prize for the longest tail went to the Twitty Patch, with a length of 28.4cm.

Jan. 26: RMS [Gough Island]
	I had set my alarm for 7:00am this morning, but was up at 5:30am when Willie woke 
up.  The cabin still smelled of cigarettes from him smoking in it while I was away, and even 
the towels for the shower had a tobacco smell.  As Willie left the cabin at 5:30am, I went to 
take an early shower, going outside afterwards at 5:50am — and while I was talking to one 
of the Saint lookouts (who mentioned he wanted to visit the "Big Apple" someday), Willie 
came out looking for me at 6:10am wearing only shorts, yelling "open the door!" — he had 
left his key in the cabin, and was angry that I had locked the door (as we both would always 
do).  Saying he had just gone to the bathroom, he must have actually gone there to smoke, 
for he was away for at least 20 minutes before I left.  After going down with him to open the 
door, I returned back outside to continue looking for Gough Island — which was supposed 
to be very close, though with the clouds and mist this morning, it would be impossible to see 
for a while.  However one nice sight was a group of penguins swimming off the side of the 
ship, looking like salmon as they'd jump in and out of the water.
	After a while other people began to come upstairs hoping for a glimpse of Gough — 
but visibility remained poor, and even though the bridge staff said the island was now only 
7-8 miles away, nothing could be seen through the fog.  Though Gough is British, its only 
human inhabitants are the people staying at its one compound — a South African weather 
station, for which the South African Government pays the British Government £1 each year.  
The complex is located on top of a cliff, and is comprised of a large white building and a few 
smaller structures.  Often the SA Agulhas research ship is used to ferry people to the 
island... in good weather a chopper is used (the ship has a heliport), but in bad weather a 
crane becomes the normal mode of getting people up to the station, (in a cage — though it's 
somewhat dangerous, as due to the cliff, the crane operator's view is severely impared).
	The Captain (now on the bridge) tried to reach the station on the radio (channel 16), 
but had no luck.  With nothing much happening yet, I went down to the sun lounge for a 
yoghurt and a cup of hot chocolate (nice in this weather), though was soon back outside the 
bridge to see a faint black outline of land through the mist.  There had still been no reply on 
the radio, so almost as a joke I suggested to the 1st mate that we blow the horn — but as we 
arrived closer, the Captain decided to do just that, blowing the ship's horn first at 8:00am, 
then again a few minutes later.
	After the horn was blown, we finally received a reply on the radio... it was Derek, one 
of the South Africans at the station.  Though we had woken him up, Derek was quite 
friendly, and talked to the Captain for a bit, apologizing for not answering earlier.  When the 
Captain made a joke about the bad weather, Derek said they were glad for it — as since it 
hadn't rained in a while, the rivers had dried and they haven't had any water for quite some 
time.  Currently, there were 10 people staying at the station (5 men and 5 women): a usual 
team of 6, as well as 4 visiting scientists (most were South African, but there was also 1 
American and 1 Brit — to which the Captain made a joke about the Brit being upstanding)... 
they had been on the island for 8 months, and had 5 more left to go until returning to 
civilization.  Outside, we could now see 4 people who had come out to wave hello (though it 
was too far to see their faces, some still appeared to be in their pajamas) — we had obviously 
woken them up, but they nonetheless seemed happy to see us.
	The Captain called for the Governor to come to the bridge (as the representative of 
the British Government), and a few minutes later he addressed the team on the radio 
(slipping up once by saying "your island" to the South African, before correcting it to "our 
	After saying goodbye at 9:20am we then began to sail around Gough... and during 
the next hour as the fog began to dissipate and the sun came out, we could all see just how 
green an island Gough really is.  Full of valleys and rolling green hills, it was absolutely 
beautiful (perhaps it's a good thing there aren't any other people there).  The island is a 
haven for birds, and though we were too far to see them without the use of binoculars, a few 
came out to greet us, resting on various parts of the ship.  While sailing alongside of Gough, 
we passed a small island out in the water (just a large chunk of rock really) — and on it was 
a stone formation resembling a human face, complete with eyes and ears.  Finally ready to 
leave, Graham, Liz, and myself talked for a while on the upper deck until Gough slowly 
faded away into the distance (with another school of dolphins swimming nearby).  Though 
this was supposed to be the "roaring 40s" (traditionally rough seas), the water today was 
smooth, glassy, and almost dull (according to the GPS monitor on the bridge we were doing 
15+ knots)... in the end, the roughest seas encountered was on the voyage from St. Helena 
back to Cape Town.
	Going downstairs I met and spoke with Donald (the doctor leaving Tristan) and his 
wife Maggie for a bit... they were both extremely nice, and mentioned they'd be moving to 
Tasmania soon.  I then went downstairs so Nigel could tear off the "return" portion of my 
ticket and collect the £6/US$9 fee for the Base walk from me.
	Going down to the galley for lunch (hungry, as I had skipped breakfast), I heard at 
the noon announcement that barring any unforseen problems, we would be arriving into 
Cape Town a day early (on the 30th instead of the 31st) — meaning I'd now have a free day 
in Cape Town before my flight out on the 1st (though anybody who wanted to stay on the 
ship for the 31st could do so if they wished).  Helping us make good time was the unusually 
calm seas, and in the end we'd not only arrive on Tuesday instead of Wednesday, but early 
enough on Tuesday for the Captain to sail down the False Bay side of the Cape Peninsula 
before docking.  Using the satellite phone for real today, I quickly called Malaysian Airlines 
in Cape Town to ask if they offered a flight back to Malaysia on the 31st — but the flight is 
only offered on Sundays and Thursdays (not pressing the "#" key on the phone until a live 
operator answered helped conserve some of the credits, but for the few seconds I did talk, 
the £8/US$12 25-unit card ticked down to 21 units).
	After making my call I went up to the children's room to watch a bit of "Oliver & Co." 
on the 13" TV (noticing yet again the annoying fact that when American movies are 
converted to the PAL video system, the pitch gets raised by a 1/2 step).  I then spent a good 
part of the afternoon talking with Graham, Callin, and Mike (a nice older South African gent) 
about things to do in Cape Town for the free day I'd now have (as between this year and last, 
I had pretty much seen everything around the city).
	For the next few nights there was a series of trivia games played at 6:00pm, with the 
overall winning team being whichever one won the most nights.  Susan, Graham, Mike, 
myself, and a few others formed a team we called the "Lions", but as would most often be 
the case, our team came in second tonight (this time to the team with the 747 pilot).
	For dinner, the appetizer was calamari, shrimp, and rice — and skipping the main 
course entirely, I ordered three before going straight for the sorbet.  Over dinner, one of the 
other people at the table asked Carol how she felt about Tristan, and her reply was that she 
had been away from the island too long: "I've seen the big city... I've lived too long in the 
UK."  To her Tristan will always mean family and the place where she's from, but she has no 
desire to return there for good now.
	After dinner I went up to the bridge to look out and talk with Jolene again... when I 
asked "what do you dislike about St. Helena?" she had to stop and think for a while, 
commenting that she's never been asked that question before.  Finally she replied "I really 
can't think of anything I dislike about it"... so I then asked "would you like to live there or in 
the UK?" Her reply was "well, if I hadn't gone to the UK, I wouldn't have met my boyfriend... 
so that's good... but I'd like to live on St. Helena."
	Tonight's activity was casino games, but while waiting for it to begin, I tried my luck 
at the slot machine (10p a spin), quickly losing £1.  However I then took £1/US$1.50 to play 
blackjack (with the Governor and a few others joining me at the table), and after an hour 
and a half of fun and conversation, not only kept my £1, but won back the £1 I had lost on 
the slot machine.  Breaking even, I decided to call it a night, especially as the clocks would 
soon be moved forward an hour.

Jan. 27: RMS [Cricket]
	Up at 6:00am today because of Willie, I went up to the exercise room for 20 minutes, 
exchanging the towels (which still smelled of cigarette smoke) for fresh ones from the 
exercise room.  After breakfast (served by Jackie, the waitress for the table I normally ate 
breakfast and lunch at), I went upstairs to re-pack, throwing some items away and giving 
others to Nigel (in case anyone else might need them).  Calling my dad for a few seconds 
from the satellite phone, I also picked up a photocopy of the 1960s National Geographic 
article on Tristan to read.
	At 10:00am I went to watch Warham's lecture on St. Helena history (nice, but I had 
seen just about everything he talked about already)... and at 11:00am it was time for cricket 
(played out on the sun deck by the pool with a normal bat and the same rope balls used for 
skittles).  Over the past two years I've asked people to explain the game of cricket to me on 
numerous occasions, but have never once understood their response (probably because 
people have tried to explain it using cricket jargon — but if you don't know what a wicket is, 
how can you understand the explanation?)  Memories of me asking everyone from Kevin and 
Cel to some white store clerks in Outjo Namibia came back, as I once again asked people the 
general outline of the game only to be bombarded with a plethora of unknown cricket 
terminology.  Finally asking the Governor for help (telling him I was a cricket-stupid 
American), he was the first person able to explain the game to me in a way I could actually 
understand... so I had my first shot at playing ship's cricket today (obviously a bit different 
from real cricket — we couldn't exactly keep it going for 5 days, you know).  Having never 
even held a cricket bat before, I asked the Governor to take a picture of me... but the bowler 
hit the wicket before the Governor even had a chance to take my picture.  He was able to 
score because I had been standing in the wrong place though, so the Captain said "ah, he's 
American... give him another chance" — and after being told where best to stand, managed 
to deflect the rope ball and hit it quite a few times, scoring 11 points (not bad for a first-
timer).  The game pitted officers against passengers, and though we put up a valiant effort, 
the officers wound up winning 125-106.  I certainly had a lot of fun though, and now have 
at least a general understanding of the game.
	As I was sitting down at an outside table after lunch jotting down some notes, the 
Captain (sitting with his wife at another table) said "good hitting!" — so I went up and 
thanked him for the second chance.  Asking him about the new arrival time at Cape Town 
(as everyone seemed to have heard a different rumor), he said he hoped we'd be docked by 
6:00pm, and finished with customs by 8:00pm if everything went according to plan.
	I then went into the children's room to watch the "Ruthless People" video I had 
borrowed from Nigel some time ago, but just as I was about to start, Tanya and Andre 
walked in carrying the video of "Gone in 60 Seconds" (the re-make).  As I had missed the 
screenings of it on the ship, we all sat down to watch it — though it was a pretty 
disappointing waste of two hours.
	 After the video I went back to the satellite phone to call Kritz and ask if it would be 
alright to come a day earlier (he said it was fine — and to just give a call when I arrived).  
Though I had used the card only for extremely short snippits, it was nevertheless down to 
only 8 credits by now, and would be finished by the time we docked.  As well, the phone 
didn't always work properly: while trying to use it earlier, the pause between dialing 
sequences wasn't long enough, and the second half of the automatic sequence began before 
the dial tone had a chance to come on.  Telling Geoff about the problem, he said he'd have 
someone take a look at it (though before hearing back from him I was able to place my call 
	While in the loo on C-deck, I heard a faint "bing-bong" (the tones which usually 
preceed an announcement) — but with there being no speaker in the loo, it was impossible 
for me to hear the subsequent announcement.  A bit later Udo mentioned a page for me, 
asking if it was anything important.  Not knowing what he was talking about, Udo continued 
"yes, didn't you hear?  They paged you a while ago."  Walking into see Geoff, he told me that 
a tech had looked at the phone and it should be working now.  Thanking him (though I had 
already placed my call), I told Geoff that I had been in the C-deck bathroom earlier, and 
could only faintly hear the warning tones — but not the announcement which followed.  
Commenting that this could be a safety problem (as you wouldn't be able to hear alarm bells 
in the loo either), he said "my, I'll have to have a word with someone about that."  The lack of 
a speaker in the loo is indeed a safety problem, for it's a frequently-used area of the ship 
where you cannot hear any announcements or alarms... but knowing Curnow, my bet is 
that nothing has changed.
	In the late afternoon I walked out onto the back deck to watch a graceful wandering 
albatross as I talked to Udo about everything from Tristan to middle-east politics.  At 
6:00pm it was time for the second night of the quiz, with our team once again coming in 
second (by just 1 point).
	After dinner I went up to talk with Jolene again (as she would pull two 4-hour shifts, 
including the 8pm-midnight one), and a bit later her cousin Richard came by to do his last 
hour of steering.  Jolene must have been thinking about what I had asked her last night, for 
as Richard took the wheel, she posed my question to him, asking what he didn't like about 
St. Helena... his reply was things such as high taxes and the government system — but not 
the lifestyle.  Jolene then mentioned that she had bought a house in Scotland, but as a 
Saint without full citizenship, her partner in buying the house had to be British — and if 
she quits her job to move to the UK, she'll only be allowed to stay for 6 months.
	After a while I went back to the children's room to watch a bit of "Ruthless People" 
before watching horse racing at 9:30pm.  Being pretty bored with it though, I retured to 
watch more of the movie when John (the botanist) came in... as he had never seen the movie 
before, I offered to start it from the beginning again, and he enjoyed it quite a bit.
	As it was common for me to return to the cabin later than Willie, out of courtesy I'd 
make it a habit to take my toothbrush and toiletries bag with me (in my small black day 
pack) so I wouldn't have to wake him up getting them out of the cabin.  As a matter of habit 
though (even during the day), I always carried the black zip-off daypack around with me, 
and the sight of it hung over my shoulder was so common that everyone on both voyages 
kept asking why I always carried it with me ("what do you HAVE in there?")  The truth is I 
was just used to carrying a daypack around, and it was much more convenient to have my 
camera, book, and other items with me rather than having to do down to C-deck all the time 
to fetch them.

Jan. 28: RMS
	Up a bit later today, the exercise room was busy when I arrived, and I had to wait 20 
minutes for the exercise cycle.  Today's weather was somewhat rougher — not as bad as 
returning from St. Helena, but the smooth, glassy waves were gone.  While speaking with 
Jolene last night I had joked that the water was too smooth, suggesting she should shake 
the ship up a bit — and on the bridge this morning after breakfast I thanked her for 
obliging.  As we were now going slower, I asked if we'd still be able to arrive by Tuesday 
evening — but her response was that they're now so far ahead of schedule, they've slowed 
down on purpose to avoid arriving too early!
	There wasn't too much going on around the ship today... being Sunday there was a 
church service, but I didn't bother to attend.  At 11:00am Warham gave a slide presentation 
on the history of the Boer War and St. Helena, and some of the information was quite 
interesting: more than 6,000 Boer prisoners were exiled to St. Helena, being watched over by 
1,000 British soldiers... the Consulate Hotel is actually the old American Consulate... the 
large St. James Church in Jamestown once had a steeple, but has not had one since 1980... 
the first Cape Town - UK telegraph cable came through St. Helena in 1899... the main Boer 
camp was on Deadwood Plain... only 2 prisoners managed to escape the island (via a 
Russian ship — most others were eventually rescued and brought back, though at least 4 
Boers opted to stay on St. Helena, with one of them being Basil George's grandfather)... and 
100 years ago, a desalinization plant at Rupert's Bay was used to create drinking water, but 
today only its chimney remains.
	Sunday lunch was once again curry, and during the meal the waves were so high we 
could see them hitting against the galley portholes.  Strangely though, by 2:00pm the water 
was back to normal.
	After watching a bit more of "Oliver & Co.", I went back to the bridge to look for 
something to do.  Talking with 1st mate Andrew (on duty now), he mentioned he has a flat in 
the south of Britain, and his mom now lives in London.
	Today as Carol worked the afternoon tea shift, she told me that the crew quarters on 
the ship are shared, not private (she bunks with Jackie, but they get along well).  When I 
asked why the staff doesn't hang out with passengers so much, she said they usually won't 
unless they're invited — but that they're also usually pretty tired by the end of the day (with 
most not being able to eat dinner until 10:30pm-11:00pm).
	With the afternoon passing slowly, I decided to take part in the 4:30pm shuffleboard 
tournament, managing to make it to the finals, though Graham beat me in the end (still, the 
fact that at least one of us "Lions" won did indeed bode well for the evening quiz).  While 
talking with the Governor in the afternoon, I invited him to join our team for the nightly quiz 
(as he hadn't been taking part in it), and he said he'd give it a shot.  Turning to other 
subjects, when I asked about the tiff between Captain Roberts and the Royal Cape Yacht 
Club, the Governor mentioned that after he had had lunch with the RCYC, the Captain 
boycotted his party the next evening... and turning to politics, the Governor commented that 
like any good politician, he relies on a few people with ears to the ground to advise him.
	At the 6:00pm quiz, the Governor's presence brought us luck (and an answer or two), 
allowing us to take first place for the evening.  However with us arriving earlier than 
scheduled, the original four nights of quizes was turned into three — so even with our win 
tonight, the "Roaring 40s" would take the series, beating the "Lions" by 2-1.
	At dinner tonight (and later up on the bridge), I heard about the bombing of the Daily 
News, the opposition newspaper in Zimbabwe.  Suspected to have been carried out by 
Mugabe's forces (as the government had just reacted to some recently-published articles by 
threatening to shut the paper down), Liz (along with everyone else) was hoping that Mugabe 
would soon be gone.
	Up on the bridge at 8:00pm there was a light drizzle outside but not much wind... 
and downstairs later, I went into the children's room to watch a video containing 3 short 
films on Tristan (shown on board the ship while I was staying on the island).
	The evening's entertainment tonight was pub games, but as I was quite tired (not to 
mention that we'd be losing yet another hour on the clock at midnight), I decided to use the 
ship's private bath for the first time (it's on B-deck — Kevin mentioned it to me while on the 
St. Helena sailing, but I don't think anyone even knew it was there)... with BBC on the 
speaker, I relaxed in the tub for a good 20 minutes.  When finished, I had a quick peek in at 
the pub games, but stayed for only 10 minutes before going to sleep at 10:45pm/11:45pm.
	Some misc. information: with all my trips up to the bridge, I soon counted the 
number of steps on the ship: there are 38 steps from C-deck to the Promenade Deck, and 
another 24 more (12+12) from the Promenade Deck up to the bridge level... also, on few 
occasions, I left the bridge (and once climbed up to the bridge) by way of the radio room and 
crew accomodation quarters — I was given permission once, and it was such an interesting 
walk (seeing the officers' area and all the plaques up on the wall), I used the route a few 
more times.

Jan. 29: RMS [St. Helena Info / Fancy Dress]
	Going up to the exercise room for 20 minutes this morning, it was quiet due to the 
lost hour last night.  Outside on deck afterwards, it was cloudy with some drizzle, though 
not cold.
	Tonight would be Fancy Dress night, and though I had skipped it on the St. Helena 
sailing, I decided to take part in it tonight.  After breakfast I asked Nigel to borrow a tux and 
sunglasses, before buying some crepe paper (60p/90c) from Carl at the store.  At the 
purser's bureau I took my last cash advance from Visa, as well as converting a bit of extra 
rand into pounds for the tips I'd leave the staff tomorrow.
	At 10:00am Warham gave a lecture on Cape Town history, and though it wasn't quite 
as interesting as some of Warham's other talks, passed an hour of the day.  11:00am was 4-
person skittles (myself, the Governor, and two others), though our team lost to another 
calling themselves the "Saints and Sinners."
	At lunch it was announced that we'd be arriving into Cape Town by 11:00am 
tomorrow morning, and would then sail along the False Bay side of the Peninsula.
	After lunch I spent some time working on my costume: though I was to dress up as a 
rockhopper penguin, I also wanted to do a skit... there's a place on Tristan called "Ridge 
Where the Goat Jump Off", and before Fancy Dress started, I was hoping to do a bit of pre-
event performance art, dressing myself up in wool as a goat and "jumping off" something (I 
borrowed a Tristan wool cap from Mike and a Tristan wool sweater from Simon, who initially 
had considered going as a penguin as well).  As for my penguin costume, Nigel managed to 
get me a white shirt and tux pants from one of the staff, and by safety-pinning some yellow 
crepe paper to my white-and-black hiking hat, I turned into a rockhopper penguin (using 
Nigel's yellow-tinted sunglasses to complete the look).  To make a pun, I also cut some 
brown crepe paper into the shape of potatoes and pinned a few to the sleeves of the white 
shirt in order to become "Larry The Rockhopper Penguin And His Potato Patches."
	By the afternoon it had become hot and sunny, though many people were inside 
either working on their costumes or watching "Tea With Mussolini."  Over afternoon tea, I 
asked the Governor if I could talk with him a bit more about St. Helena, and as there was 
nothing much else to do, he had me pull up a chair.  Though I had asked him many 
questions about St. Helena a few weeks ago (see Jan. 14), I nevertheless learned some new 
things today: Argos (the large company which operates the fish plant at Rupert's Bay) is a 
Spanish-UK joint venture — when the RMS heads north to Vigo, it takes the fish from Argos 
up to Vigo for the Italian market... most of the islanders on the 3-day work week (for those 
on welfare) have jobs connected with public works or roads... the Governor would like to 
develop more niche tourism (focusing on Napoleon, endemic species, history, etc.) but the 
big problem is access — with it possible to only have about 3,000 visitors a year come to St. 
Helena, there's only a 15% occupancy rate on the island, and this isn't much of an incentive 
for Saints to enter the tourism sector... the island has a workforce of 2,700 (of which 15% 
are unemployed, and 1,300-1,400 work offshore)... besides tourism, one investment idea 
being looked at is back-office data processing (answering phones, taking airline reservations, 
etc.) — as there's no minimum wage on the island, labor is 1/5th that in Britain, the 
workforce is English-speaking (with some good IT skills apparently), and the time zone is the 
same as the UK (the only problem is the high cost of telephone calls to-and-from the island 
with Cable & Wireless — the Governor mentioned that something would have to be worked 
out)... some other interested investors on St. Helena include a brewer interested in setting 
up a microbrewry, and a small hotel chain possibly wanting to open up a hotel on the 
	When talk turned to the airport, the Governor said he feels the British Government is 
now serious about an airport for the island — and a cost-comparison study between 
building an airport or funding another ship is due to be released next month.  If an airport 
is built, there would be no need for a new RMS (even for cargo), for while the ship currently 
has a monopoly on carrying cargo to-and-from St. Helena, supplies could still reach the 
island by awarding the contract to any normal cargo line.  The airport option would also 
help with island investment: according to the Governor, there are a number of people 
interested in investing on St. Helena, but lack of access has been a hinderance (as he put it, 
Bill Gates won't take a 5-day voyage to look at a possible site).  Also, besides the obvious 
medical need for quick transportation off the island, an airport would help to get fish to 
overseas markets sooner, and the number of tourists could be controlled with a small 
number of flights (perhaps only once or twice a week, not daily).  The Governor seemed to 
feel that in the end, any possible airport would probably have to be funded by the British 
Government, as the Shelco plan won't work because they don't have the money, and the 
other plan (for a luxury resort and private airline) isn't as good for St. Helena as having a 
normal carrier such as South African Airways serve the island.  He also mentioned that in 
1991 Shelco was granted a 25-year lease on Prosperous Bay Plain if they built an airport 
within 5 years — but as nothing has happened, it was recently revoked.
	When I asked what the biggest complaint made by Saints is, he replied "lack of 
citizenship", though he thinks full citizenship will come with a second Labor Government.  
The island can't go to the UN for help, because they're considered the UK's dependent... flax 
on the island is a big problem: you can't just remove it or erosion will take place, but crops 
such as coffee take at least 5 years to develop.  There was an attempt in the past to replace 
the flax with eucalyptus, but the trees required too much water... being quite candid, 
Governor Hollamby felt that the Governor has too much power in St. Helena Government, 
and would favor trimming some of it away... there's a St. Helena representative in both the 
UK and South Africa, but any political issues must usually go through the Governor... 
remittances sent back to the island from Saints working overseas help to form a large 
underground economy of undeclared income, and when you add barter to the equasion 
(anything from pigs to veggies), this underground economy reaches an estimated £3/US$4.5 
million.  However without this, it would be very hard for many islanders to survive, as the 
wages for a public service employee range from only £3,000-£11,000 (US$4,500-US$16,500) 
a year — and most private-sector jobs pay a lot less.  As overseas remittances come in 
though, aid from the UK tends to drop accordingly, and such aid has dropped 16% over the 
last 10 years... many Saints work overseas to earn the money to buy a house and car, then 
come back to the island to live... the Governor commented that Saints don't always have as 
much pride as Tristanians in what they do, and that it's a much more laid-back atmosphere 
on St. Helena than on Tristan.
	Prince Andrew School now educates until age 18 (raised from 15 as of only last year), 
and between the ages of 15-18, students can choose either normal education or vocational 
training (brought back last year).  After age 18 there are only 2-3 openings a year for 
continuing one's education overseas, though if you're training for a job, many companies 
will train you themselves... the island has a declining birth rate, and by 2010, 70% of its 
population will be over the age of 70... there's no stigma attached to an illegitimate child on 
St. Helena... one of the biggest problems on the island is drinking... there is some marijuana 
(which is usually caught), though no hard drugs... when ex-pats come to fill certain jobs, the 
Governor tries to get them to search for locals to take their place in time: the Chief of Police, 
Chief of Education, and Public Health head are all locals now, and next will be the head of 
the Agriculture Department (hopefully in the future there will be a local doctor as well, with 
the Governor mentioning one bright girl definitely smart enough, who seemed interested).
	The Governor told me he's tried to have an open, transparant government: in the 
past, the Council has always vetoed the budget, but when he came on board, he invited the 
elected Saints to take part in the negotiations with the UK Government alongside him — and 
for the first time, the budget was given a "yes" vote by the Council (many Saints I talked to 
believed the Council voted "yes" because they knew where their paychecks came from... as 
with all politics, reality is in the eye of the beholder).  The Governor went onto say that when 
he first proposed the Saints work with him, they were happy — until it was made clear they 
would share some of the responsibility as well.  Still, in the end they were able to work 
together and pass a budget... one other change Governor Hollamby made was a 
standardizing of club and pub hours (before, a pub would close at 11:00pm and a club at 
1:00am, causing a lot of drunk driving as people would drive from a pub to a club — so now 
both close at 1:00am).
	Governor Hollamby had been extremely nice, and as we were nearing the end of our 
sailings together, I made one suggestion to him: spend just a little money to promote St. 
Helena in the United States, as though many Brits and South Africans know of the island, 
almost no Americans do unless they have a particular interest in the place.  The RMS and 
its sailings are advertised in the UK, and I suggested that just a small targeted ad in the 
New York Times travel section would raise a lot of awareness (after all, there are 275 million 
Americans, and many are looking for a "different" type of place to visit — to not advertise St. 
Helena in the US is ignoring a huge potential customer base).
	At 6:00pm I attended the last of the Captain's cocktail parties, and had a chance to 
speak to some of the staff for one last time: Carl would soon be leaving to join the QE2 for a 
few months, the Captain mentioned that this was his first time to Gough Island (as it's new 
on the RMS' itinerary), and I once again realized what a small world it is when it comes to 
Saints, for when Carl talked about a certain Saint living in the US, I asked if it was someone 
whom I had corresponded with briefly via email — and sure enough, it was.  All the 
passengers were saying goodbye to each other and the staff, and I realized my long stay on 
board the RMS St. Helena was soon about to end.
	Dinner tonight was a candlelight farewell dinner (with no "theme" as there had been 
at the end of the St. Helena sailing, though the Tristan crayfish tails more than made up for 
that shortcoming).  After dinner, I went up to the bridge to look out at the sea: with the sun 
having just set, the sky was a mixture of blue and stars, with orange clouds on the horizon.  
Lying out on the sun deck for a while, I soon went down to get ready for Fancy Dress.
	Bringing my penguin outfit with me, I first dressed up as a sheep — and going 
upstairs, told Geoff that I wanted to do a little skit before the start of the event (after which, 
I'd then change into a penguin).  A lot of people were taking part in the Fancy Dress this 
time, and many of the costumes were elaborate and inventive: Don went as "Crocodile Don-
Dee" (complete with hat and fake rifle)... the South African couple went as a Singapore 
Airlines captain and stewardess (carrying a sign reading "Tristan da Cunha Flight #1")... 
Simon went as Governor Roll-On-By... a group of five ladies (including Susan) went as the 
Spice Girls (with an elderly grandmother going as "Old Spice") — but the funniest costume of 
the evening was undoubtedly Udo going as a nun (wearing a habit which read "Sister 
	With everyone lined up, Geoff forgot that I wanted to do a skit first, and began the 
evening by having the first "contestant" walk out.  With it now too late for the skit, I hurridly 
put everything down and ran into the bathroom to change into my penguin outfit.  As I 
didn't have a jacket, Don said he had one in his cabin I could borrow — so I quickly fetched 
it, and with the help of the ladies in line, took the potato patches off the shirt and 
transferred them onto the jacket.  When it was finally my turn, Geoff asked "are you going to 
do a skit?" — but telling him no (it was now way too late), I gave up on my "Place Where the 
Goat Jump Off" idea and just waddled into the room as "Larry The Rockhopper Penguin And 
His Potato Patches."
	The Captain pretended to judge us, but of course (as I knew from the previous time) 
everyone wins a prize: £5/US$7.50 for use on board the ship.  Hot and tired from the fast 
change, I used my coupon to get a cold Schweppes Bitter Lemon from the bar (55p), 
receiving the difference back in cash.
	While everyone was at the bar after Fancy Dress, I went down to the cabin to 
change... and Willie was there sleeping instead of enjoying himself up in the lounge with 
everyone else.  Back upstairs, it was then time for a special presentation of crew hijinks 
(something which didn't occur on the St. Helena run).  First was a poetry reading by 4 
officers (including the Captain), followed by Nigel, Geoff, John, and Peter (the 1st mate) as 
ballerina dancers with balloons (extremely funny).  Then Nigel and Geoff did a vaudeville 
routine, and between all the dancing, an Officer's Chorus of six officers (including the 
Captain, Carl, Andrew, and John) sang "If I Were Not Upon the Sea, What Would I Rather 
Be."  After this stirring finale the doctor leaned over to say "very poignant" — as now that 
Curnow's contract for running the RMS will be up for renewal next year, there's the 
possibility that some of these people will be unemployed if Curnow doesn't win the bid (sure 
enough, a few months later Curnow lost its bid to continue running the ship, and the RMS 
is now being handled by Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd. — though hopefully the officers and 
crew will retain their jobs with the new management).
	Though it was already 11:45pm, it seemed like only 9:00pm — and I didn't wind up 
going to sleep until 1:00am.

Jan. 30: RMS / Cape Town (South Africa)
	I didn't turn out the light last night until 1:00am, and at 4:00am awoke to the cabin 
reeking of smoke... though I didn't see him do it, Willie must have smoked right in bed, as 
the smell wasn't just on his breath, it was everywhere.  Throughout the entire sailing, Willie 
would go to smoke in the C-deck bathrooms instead of the cabin (this would foul the air in 
them for hours, and I'd often wind up using the toilets on A-deck or the Promenade Deck to 
escape a room full of smoke), but this morning the entire cabin was filled with smoke.  Still, 
I somehow managed to finally fall back to sleep for an hour and a half before it was time to 
wake up.
	This morning I gave Colin (our cabin attendant) a £10/US$15 tip, and last night gave 
Carol a £10 tip as well, even though she had only been my waitress for the last few days — 
for not only was she an excellent waitress (the only one to remember how I liked things), she 
had also given me some of her Tristan water, and was a genuinely nice person throughout 
all four sailings.  This morning when I asked Carol whether the crew would be in danger of 
losing their jobs if Curnow lost their RMS contract, she thought not, saying that it would 
most likely affect only management — though if she were to lose her job, she'd most likely 
return to the UK to work, saying she didn't want to be on board the RMS forever.
	When the purser's bureau opened at 9:00am I returned the tux shirt, pants, and 
sunglasses to Nigel, changing some of my leftover pounds into rand.  Picking up an 
immigration card, I was finally given an RMS/Curnow survey to fill out as well: I generally 
gave high marks to the staff and other on-board questions (except for the lack of decent 
non-smoking areas), but wrote a nice long paragraph on how bad the UK Curnow office had 
been.  Walking outside to complete the survey, there was a sunny sky above and plenty of 
cigarette smoke out on deck.
	Up on the bridge, I found out one of the reasons we were returning early was to try to 
get the engines fixed, with the plan being to offload part of each engine onto land while in 
port.  Speaking with Andrew, he mentioned there were 3 other companies besides Curnow 
bidding for the St. Helena Line contract... the offers had already been tendered, and the 
decision would be made public on March 31, 2001.  When I asked what he thought of 
Curnow, Andrew said the problem with them was that there were too many people in the 
company who had no idea what it was like to be at sea, and everything needed to be 
explained to them (an Idiot's Guide to the Sea) — whereas some of the competitors (one of 
which he had worked for before) were better qualified.  A few months later it was announced 
that Curnow had indeed lost the RMS contract to a competitor (Andrew Weir Shipping Ltd.), 
and there would be a new management team behind the ship as of August 2001.  I can only 
say that Curnow brought it upon themselves, and as long as the crew keeps their jobs, I'm 
happy to see the contract awarded to someone else.
	As we approached the Cape coastline, the Captain came onto the bridge to raise the 
local maritime authorities on the radio for permission to sail by the coast.  The first person 
he spoke to said it was OK with him — but that the Captain would need to radio for 
permission from another authority as well (as we were asking to sail as far as Muizenberg, 
past the Naval Station in Simonstown).  As the other person (another Captain) could only be 
reached by landline (not via HF radio), the Captain had his cel phone sent for and soon 
received the appropriate permission (as it was granted, Captain Roberts lived up to his 
nickname by replying "Good, fine, ticketyboo").
	As soon as we were given the go-ahead we began our sail around the Cape Peninsula 
that sunny, blue morning, passing Cape Point, Simonstown, Fish Hoek, Kalkbay, and finally 
Muizenberg... not wanting to miss the view, I just grabbed a few pizza slices upstairs rather 
than going down to the dining saloon for lunch.  At 12:50pm we turned around at 
Muizenberg to head back, as people's cel phone signals would fade in and out... I borrowed 
Don's phone to call a camera shop he recommended (Orms Camera) about a replacement 
lens, but they didn't carry anything that old in stock.
	After a while the ship became pretty quiet, with most passengers either watching the 
movie, packing, or sleeping in their cabins.  Arriving into the general harbor area, Jolene 
said we couldn't just cut through in a straight line, but had to instead circle around and 
enter via the normal shipping lanes.  The Captain was now on the bridge again, and with the 
help of a small pilot boat, we followed a large container vessel into the harbor.  While 
standing outside, my trusty faded-blue cap suddenly flew off my head in the wind, and was 
no where to be seen (it was probably floating behind the ship)... and entering the main 
harbor at 4:56pm, I spotted a Canadian ship with the humorous name of "Canadian Reefer."
	At 5:26pm we docked between E and F berths, and a few minutes later South African 
Immigration came aboard.  As I was close to the front of the line I was cleared early on — 
but South African Customs then announced that they wanted to speak to each of us on 
board rather than after we disembarked (with Geoff and John saying that Customs had 
informed them no passengers were to leave until ALL had been cleared).  The fact that 
Customs was taking such an interest in this sailing seemed pretty amusing to most of us, as 
all but 5 passengers had originated in Cape Town, and Tristan wasn't exactly a place to buy 
things.  It soon became apparent that we'd be here for a while, for while there were four 
Customs officials on board, only one was actually speaking with passengers (with the others 
only working when a bag needed to be inspected at random).  When it was finally my turn, 
the official asked to inspect my bags (currently resting out of sight in the hallway)... so I 
walked over with two of the officers and waited as they looked inside.  After a quick glance 
they cleared me — and when I asked if I could now leave the ship, they answered yes.  By 
the ship's entry/exitway, I asked a Saint crewman to watch my bags as I ran down to the 
cabin for my bottle of Tristan water — only to find the door locked.  Having already returned 
my keys (and wanting to leave while I still could), I decided to give up on the water, and 
headed back to the exit.  There, John (one of the officers) saw me ready to leave, and asked 
what was going on... when I told him Customs had given me permission to leave, he went up 
to ask if there had been a change in the plan — but not wanting to wait around (as I had 
already received an official OK), I quickly left the ship.
	Back on land at 6:10pm, I didn't see Kritz around anywhere, so I waited in the shade 
near some taxis and the Tristan da Cunha kombi, watching the other passengers slowly 
depart the ship.  Kritz finally arrived at 6:40pm in his gold Honda Prelude, apologizing for 
being late (saying he had problems getting in and finding the right berth — as the docks can 
indeed be quite confusing).
	On the drive back into town we stopped at Gardens Center to make a quick run into 
the Pick 'N Pay before it closed at 7:00pm... Kritz picked up some yoghurt, and I bought 
some biltong (South African beef jerky) to take home as a souvenir (both Clicks and the 
camera store were already closed, though I made a quick stop at the ABSA ATM to withdraw 
some rand).  As the Pick 'N Pay was out of some items Kritz wanted, we also stopped at the 
7-11 where Kritz' friend works on the way back.
	Back at the B&B I gave Kritz an unused California T-shirt, a cheap warm jacket, and 
my tie — as I'd no longer need these items in hot, humid Malaysia.  After stuffing everything 
I wouldn't need for the rest of the trip into the RMS duffel (which I then placed inside the 
grey duffel for extra durability), I was going to order pizza from Mr. Delivery... but Kritz 
offered to take me to the V&A at 8:30pm, so in the end I never did use Mr. Delivery this 
	At the V&A, I bought some more Fuji film at AudioLens (3 rolls of 36exp for 
R71.95/US$9.11 — another store wanted R37.95/US$4.80 for just one roll) and also tried 
to find a cap for myself — though the places which sold them were too expensive here (Cape 
Union Mart wanted R39-R59, and other shops were asking R49-R80).  For dinner, I ordered 
two slices of pizza at St. Elmos: their excellent peri-peri chicken slice (R7.95), and their 
average steak slice (R8.50), as well as two chocolate milkshakes (R4.90 each).  Before 
leaving, Kritz showed me the pub which had been the first business to open at the V&A 
(before it became a major tourist hub), as well as some finely-crafted wood furniture in 
another restaurant.
	Back at the B&B the wind was howling outside... as I was writing in my journal, the 
neighbor on my side began blasting his radio — though he thankfully turned it off at 

Jan. 31: Cape Town [Simonstown / Boulders]
	Waking up at 7:00am this morning it was still a bit windy, but quite pleasant (I put 
long pants on but took shorts with me in the daypack).  There wasn't a cloud in the sky (not 
even over Table Mountain), and after having breakfast at 7:30am, I managed to leave by 
8:40am — as today would be quite a full day.
	The first thing I did was head for the wholesale district near Corporation Street to 
pick up a cap for myself.  At the place I've stopped at frequently (now called T-Boss 
Clothing), they had souvenir hats for R12/US$1.52, but I picked up a non-souvenir hat for 
only R6/US76c — a far cry from the R50-R80 prices being asked at the V&A.  Walking back 
through town, I went into GAME to check their film prices, but at R27.99 per roll, I decided 
to return to the V&A tonight for more film.
	Now that I had a hat, what I wanted to do for the rest of the day was take the train 
out to the large penguin colony at Boulders Beach (as suggested by Graham and Don on 
board the RMS).  While I had been through much of the Cape a few times now, I never made 
it as far as Boulders (nor did I have the time to explore some of the nearby towns) — so I 
thought it would be nice on this beautiful day to take the train there and back.  At breakfast 
Kritz warned me against using the train (being worried for my safety), but everyone from 
young students to elderly white ladies were riding on it, and everything was fine.  While the 
train travels underground at first, most of the trip is above ground — and for the last 20 
minutes, you travel right by the shore.  The train only goes as far as Simonstown (where the 
Naval Base is located), but from there it's not too far of a walk to get to Boulders.
	From GAME I walked into the nearby Cape Town station to purchase tickets, buying 
a round-trip ticket for R19/US$2.41 (good on the same day for uninterrupted journeys — 
though when I asked the clerk if there was a discount for buying a round-trip ticket, he said 
no).  As I had a half-hour before it was time for the train to leave, I walked into the 
information booth to have the gentlemen behind the counter look up return times. 
Afterwards, I called Malaysian Airlines to ask about the Kuala Lumpur -> Penang flight I had 
planned to take tomorrow.  After hanging up the phone, I went to the bathroom to change 
into shorts, putting my slacks in the daypack (where I had with me only some suntan lotion 
and a disposable camera).
	As the time to board neared, I walked past a guard who didn't even bother asking for 
tickets (though you're supposed to have them with you in case someone does check) and 
boarded the train.  The train used for this run was a little old but still comfortable, with 
windows you could raise or lower and doors which sometimes opened automatically (and 
sometimes didn't — in which case you'd have to help them along).  Each car had a "no 
smoking" sticker on a window (which you couldn't see if the window was lowered) — though 
even with signs elsewhere in the car, people just ignored the "no smoking" rule and lit up 
when they pleased (twice on the way out to Simonstown on a relatively empty train, and 
twice on the way back in a crowded train).  Before the train left Cape Town, peddlers walked 
through the cars selling various items, though on the way back, they were on the train as it 
	Leaving right on time at 10:25am, the train was relatively empty (we were going 
against the rush-hour traffic), and a passenger immediately took out his cel phone to begin 
a conversation.  As the train goes slow and the stations are close to each other, there was a 
sign in the car mentioning that as of two days ago, a program had started where certain 
trains would be express-only during peak hours, stopping at every other station — though 
most trains (including the one I was on) would make every stop, with a travel time of about 
70 minutes (we arrived into Simonstown at 11:35am — just 2 minutes late).  Though much 
of the trip isn't anything out of the ordinary, the last 20 minutes by the turquoise water of 
the coast is quite nice.
	Arriving into Simonstown, I got off the train and began my walk to Boulders.  While 
on the RMS, I asked a few different Cape Town natives how far Boulders was from 
Simonstown, and received a different answer each time, from "a 15 minute walk" to 
"15kms."  In actual fact, it's 1.2km from the Simonstown tourist office (which is about a 5-7 
minute walk up from the train station).
	Simonstown is a nice large pleasant seaside town... the country's main naval base is 
located here, and throughout the area you can find mention of "Just Nuisance", a dog from 
years back that was named an able seaman for looking after the troops.  Stopping in at the 
tourist information office to make sure I was headed the right way, the friendly lady there 
handed me a xerox map of the city, and recommended that I stop for lunch at the "Salty Sea 
Dog" (a small restaurant in the area run by an ex-magistrate of Cape Town) — though I had 
already planned to do so, as just the other day Graham had told me not to miss eating 
	With it still being too early for lunch, I continued onto Boulders, stopping to call the 
Seasons View Hotel in Kuala Lumpur (to add Feb. 8th to my current reservation of Feb. 9th).  
Along the way, I passed a new kombi with "Rikkis" painted on the side... stopping the driver 
to ask if Rikki's offered service out here, he replied that he was only making short shuttle 
trips between Simonstown and the nearby areas (for those who didn't want to walk) — but 
at least I knew Rikkis was still around and expanding their service.
	Arriving at Boulders, I paid the admission charge of R10/US$1.27 (which goes 
towards research, conservation, and upkeep of the area).  The jackass penguins (now called 
"African penguins") congregate right on the beach, and while you're not allowed to go down 
onto the sand next to them, there are a series of wooden boardwalks which take you 
extremely close (just a few feet away).  Today, dozens of penguins were on the beach (many 
laying and sitting on eggs)... and while walking around the area, I immediately spotted two 
people from the RMS: John and Cecilia, the British botanist and retired flutist from both 
sailings.  Approaching them, Cecelia recognized me — and as John was taking a picture, I 
walked up to do a "give me all your money!" joke (ever calm, John turned around merely to 
say "Ah...")  The two were being shown around the area by a mutual friend, and we all talked 
for a bit before they had to leave for their next destination.  I soon left as well, after finding 
out from a volunteer that the average lifespan of a penguin is 11-12 years.
	Walking back into Simonstown, a car tooted its horn and a man got out right across 
the street from the entrance to the Naval Base — it was none other than the husband of the 
German couple from the St. Helena sailing.  He had recognized me walking down the street 
and wanted to say hello (my cap was now different, but otherwise I had on familiar clothes).  
Parking the car, he got out, introduced me to his colleague, and mentioned that he was in 
town doing business with the Navy.  After talking for a few minutes the two had to be on 
their way, but it was still quite fun meeting up with 3 fellow RMS passengers all within a few 
minutes of each other (and it would happen once more this evening).
	Back in town I bought another telephone card at a local store (as I had run out of 
change while trying to call the Hotel Nova in Kuala Lumpur to inquire about a possible 
reservation) before heading off to the Salty Sea Dog for lunch.  A nice little eatery by the 
water, the place serves great calamari for either takeaway or sitdown (though as the sitdown 
prices were a bit higher, I just ordered takeaway and took it outside onto the nearby pier).  
The owner is a retired ex-magistrate of Cape Town, and he's quite an interesting fellow 
(Graham had done a story on him and his little restaurant recently, and mentioned that he 
seemed happier running the restaurant than being in politics).  Though the calamari was 
fried (you can't seem to find it any other way in South Africa), it was delicious nonetheless, 
served in large, thick strips for a reasonable price.
	Being a tourist city (as most of the small towns in the area are), Simonstown has 
plenty of touristy shops, but some are actually quite nice.  Inside one, I saw a nice ceramic 
giraffe for R51/US$6.46 that I was debating whether or not to buy... in the end, I decided 
first to look at the other shops in town in case I could find it cheaper — but by the time I 
finished, it was almost time for the train to depart (with the next one being 40 minutes 
later), and I didn't bother going back (I should have just bought it here, as the same giraffe 
was R65 downtown).  Walking along the main street, I also took a moment to call Judith and 
thank her again for the hospitality she and Russell had shown me.
	While on the trip out to Simonstown this morning, I looked carefully at the various 
towns while passing them on the train, and decided that with it being such a nice day, I'd 
spend the afternoon walking a good part of the way back instead of taking the train.  
However as the stretch between Simonstown and Fish Hoek didn't seem that interesting, I 
decided to take the train to Fish Hoek, then get out and walk for a while.  Though the ticket 
mentioned it was good only for an uninterrupted journey, no one looked at or stamped it — 
so I hoped to be able to use it again at a later station.
	Off at Fish Hoek, a station employee stamped my ticket (uh-oh), but if worse came to 
worse and they wouldn't honor it again further down the line, I'd just pay for another ticket.  
Looking around town, I stopped at a convenience store to buy a Bitter Lemon, but as I didn't 
have much money on me, I didn't buy anything else.  I then headed onto Kalkbay, spotting 
plenty of homes and buildings with gables (traditional Cape Dutch style — such gables can 
be seen all over the Cape Peninsula on buildings both old and new).
	In Kalkbay I had a look in at the Brass Bell, a famous restaurant right at the water 
that everyone seems to know about.  To get to the restaurant you must first enter the train 
station and walk under the tracks — and on the way back, a station guard asked to see my 
ticket... luckily I had taken a business card from the Brass Bell and just showed him the 
card (he let me pass) — but how would he know if someone was telling the truth about 
having just come from the restaurant instead of the train?  At any rate, the restaurant is 
divided into different indoor and outdoor areas (with a bar as well), and was doing good 
business even on a weekday afternoon.
	After dipping my feet in at the water, I headed back to the main street, passing the 
Cafe Matisse where I had eaten with Russell and Juidth a few weeks ago, and all the 
touristy antique shops which line the road.  Continuing my walk, the next little town was St. 
James, a quiet little place without many tourist distractions.
	Finally I arrived at Muizenberg, a tourist town famous for its long, sandy beach (with 
shallow water and tiny waves breaking multiple times by the shore).  Though the beach area 
had plenty of tourist amenities, it was quiet this afternoon, with only a few people walking 
along the sand.  Skipping an internet cafe, I decided to use the phone in the large ShopRite 
supermarket to call Kritz and let him know I wouldn't be back until about 6:30pm.  When 
he found out where I was and what I was doing (walking from town to town), he said "ah, 
well you're certainly getting your exercise!"
	Deciding to catch the train at the next station, I walked just a bit further to the 
nearby False Bay train station — where the guard looked at my ticket (as it was already 
punched at Fish Hoek), but seeing the top portion read "Simonstown -> Cape Town", didn't 
seem to care about the uninterrupted journey rule, and let me through after stamping it 
again.  When I asked when the next train would come by, his answer was the typical South 
African "just now" — but it actually did come only 3 minutes later, at 3:56pm (and I enjoyed 
listening to three high school girls next to me talk about their friends at school amongst 
each other while waiting)... by now the cars were much more crowded (about 2/3rds full, 
becoming 3/4ths full after a few stops).
	Back in Cape Town at 4:35pm, I spent a bit of time looking at any open curio shops I 
could find (as many tend to close early).  In one, the same ceramic giraffe which was R51 in 
Simonstown was R65 — and though I managed to buy it for R60/US$7.59, I still felt ripped 
off (the clerk's response was that the other shop must be selling old stock — not true, it was 
the same).
	When finished with the curio shop, I then walked down to the V&A again (I certainly 
did enough walking today!)   Almost immediately I heard my name being called: it was 
Susan (from the RMS), who spotted me walking by as she sat eating dinner with her 
husband and son at an outdoor cafe.  Joining them for a few minutes, Susan showed me the 
photographs she had just developed (giving me one of myself in the penguin costume), and it 
was nice to chat and run into yet another RMS passenger around town.
           After saying goodbye to Susan, I went to pick up more film at AudioLens — this time 
deciding to call the clerk on the shop's false advertising: at the store, a normal 3-pak of Fuji 
36/200 print film was R71.95, but they also had a special 3-pak of the same film with a 
"free watch" for R86.95 (how could the watch be "free" if the pak was R15 more?)  The sign 
advertising the promotion (both outside and inside the shop) clearly said that if you buy a 3-
pak roll of Fuji print film, you'll receive a free watch — so I asked the clerk for my free 
watch.  Of course he said the free watch came only with the 3-pak which cost R86.95, not 
the 3-pak which cost R71.95, even though the only difference between the two packs was 
the watch.  I calmly showed him the sign, and explained to him that a "free watch" means 
you don't pay for it... and since I was buying a 3-pak of film (following the requirment of the 
advertisement), I should receive the free watch.  Showing me that the 3-pak with the blister-
packed watch rang up at R86.95, the clerk tried his hardest to pretend as if nothing was 
fishy... on one level I felt sorry for him, but his insistance that everything was on the up-
and-up made me want to continue.  Gently telling him that I know he doesn't make the 
rules himself but that it's still false advertising, he finally relented and admitted that yes, it 
wasn't very honest.  Quite truthfully I didn't care for the watch at all (a big, ugly Casio), but 
it was the principal of the matter... if not for the good rate of exchange that Americans enjoy 
in South Africa now, many would be annoyed at trying to buy things in the country, as not 
only are occurances such as this commonplace, but there is never an official suggested price 
marked on anything, meaning it's up to an individual store to sell the item for whatever they 
think they can get for it.  To be fair, Clicks was having the same misleading promotion 
(charging more for the 3-pak with the "free" watch), but it certainly doesn't make it right.
	As this was my "last chance" to buy things in South Africa, I had one last look 
around at some of the other V&A stores: at the official Ngwenya glass shop I bought a small 
giraffe (R36/US$4.56 — it was R60/US$7.59 at other V&A shops), some ostrich biltong at 
Clicks (R9.95), and made one last stop at St. Elmos for two peri-peri pizza chicken slices and 
a milkshake, relaxing outside in the early evening sun.
	At 7:15pm I changed pants in the bathroom for the walk home, and passing the 
Telkom Exploratorium (a science exploration place for kids) I thought about having a look — 
but with an R10 entrance fee, decided not to help fund the monopoly anymore than I 
already had.  On my last walk up to the hills from the V&A, I went through the Company 
Gardens in the beautiful early evening, as even though it was getting dark, there was still 
enough light out to let me feel safe.  At the top of the Gardens, I decided to stop at Virtual 
Turtle again... besides checking my email, I used an online hotel broker to make a 
reservation for myself at the Hotel Nova (Kuala Lumpur) for the end of my trip (there was 
nothing wrong with the Seasons View, but I just wanted to try someplace new — and the 
Hotel Nova was just a 2 minute walk down the same street from the Seasons View).  Online 
for 16 minutes, it cost R8/US$1.01.
	Walking back up the hill, I stopped at the 7-11 to pick up a few snacks for the plane 
tomorrow before finally reaching the B&B.  At first I had planned to stop at the Standard 
Bank ATM next to the KwikSpar down the road from Kritz to withdraw some rand, but as I 
had just enough to pay for the accomodations, decided not to.
	Once back at the B&B, Kritz suggested stopping by to see Pete & Naomi at Bridle's 
B&B in Oranjezicht (as I had stayed there last year, and Kritz and Pete are good friends).  
Surprising them, we dropped by and sat down as they were eating dinner to talk for a while 
(they were waiting up for a German couple who would be arriving late).  Unfortunately, they 
had just been robbed by the same bloke three times on subsequent Tuesdays (luckily no 
guests were around at the time)... Pete admitted that the first time it was his own fault (he 
had left the door open with the key), but the other times really bugged him, and he was 
about to put up more security measures.  One thing I found out about Pete which I didn't 
know last time was that he speaks fluent Xhosa (as he used to teach in Xhosa schools), but 
with the robberies and everything happening around him, he was even more pessimistic 
about where South Africa was headed.  Pete & Naomi were glad to see me again, and one 
part of me really missed their place (their B&B has spectacular views, and the two are 
extremely hospitable) — though Kritz and his wife offer a nice place as well.
	Back at Kritz' at 10:00pm, I caught up on my journal: I had brought two Japanese 
notebooks with me to use as journals, but as of tonight, the first was now full.  Carefully 
tucking it into the duffel bag that I'd put in an airport storage locker tomorrow, I took out 
the second one to start on the plane tomorrow.  Making sure everything was packed and 
ready to go, I set my alarm for 6:45am and went to sleep.

Feb. 1/2: Johannesburg Airport / Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) / Penang
	Though my alarm was set for 6:45am, I woke up on my own at 6:30am and walked to 
the KwikSpar down the road for more souvenir biltong.  It was another beautiful day in Cape 
Town this morning, though the forecast called for 30% chance of showers tonight.
	After breakfast and on the way to the airport, Kritz stopped to show me the other flat 
he owns in town... not too far from Gardens Center, it's where his daughter had been living, 
but now that she's moved away, he plans on fixing it up and hiring it out for longer-term 
self-catering rentals.
	At the airport a lot of construction was going on... and after checking in for my flight 
to Kuala Lumpur, I tried to buy a ticket for a connecting KL -> Penang flight but was unable 
to, as Malaysian Airlines has no ticketing facilities at the airport (only at their downtown 
office).  I really wanted to buy the ticket now though, as the reservation would expire just 
before I was to arrive in Kuala Lumpur, and MAS in the States had told me I'd be able to buy 
my ticket here this morning.  The agent at the counter suggested I see someone in their 
office upstairs... so I asked the young man on the 2F if he could call the Malaysian ticket 
office in Kuala Lumpur for me, but was told their phones wouldn't call out overseas.  Still, 
he kindly sent a Telex to the office in KL informing them that I would definitely buy the 
Penang ticket upon my arrival into Kuala Lumpur, and said he'd have a copy of the Telex for 
me by the time I boarded the plane.
	I then tried to call home to check my messages, but for some reason none of the 
telephones at the airport were placing overseas calls correctly (giving a fast busy after just a 
few digits).  When I asked the lady at a snack shop to change a bill so I could try some of the 
coin phones, her surly response was "the bank wouldn't give it to you?" — right under an 
airport sign reading "Come A Visitor, Leave A Friend."
	At the ABSA ForEx Bank (the only one in the terminal) not only was the rate bad, but 
they charged R22 commission — so for the R40 I wanted to exchange it just wasn't worth it 
(they also didn't deal with Malaysian ringget).  One thing to note though, is that it's very 
hard to change rands outside of South Africa, so if you have any rands left, make sure 
you've spent them before reaching the airport.
	Trying another phone, it worked for calls within South Africa, but not for overseas 
ones.  Realizing I still had time, I decided to walk over to the domestic terminal... there, the 
phones worked for calls to the US (I had my dad call me back), but not to Hong Kong.
	Returning to the international terminal, it was finally time to board the flight, and 
there to meet me at the boarding gate was the Malaysian Airlines employee from upstairs, 
handing me a printout of the Telex he had sent to KL.
	The flight today started out in Buenos Aries, and would continue from Cape Town to 
Johannesburg before flying onto Kuala Lumpur.  During the flight to Johannesburg, an 
extremely noisy kid who liked kicking the seat was behind me, and asking one of the flight 
attendants if the kid would be continuing onto Kuala Lumpur as well, found out the answer 
was yes.  Not wanting to have a kid kicking my seat for the next 10 hours, I tried to find an 
MAS representative in Johannesburg in order to change my seat — but with no MAS official 
around to greet arriving passengers, an airport employee had to let me use a phone to page 
one.  The MAS agent who showed up was quite understanding, not only moving me to 44A 
but volunteering to block out the two seats next to me as well (during the flight a Chinese 
guy sat in the aisle seat, but at least the middle seat remained empty, with no bratty kid 
behind me).
	At the Johannesburg airport I had a look at some of the duty free shops, and there 
were actually a few good deals: the electronics store was closing out a top-of-the-line Philips 
shaver for R499/US$63.16 (a model which sells for $145 at home)... I was ready to buy it 
until I noticed that the AC plug was designed for South African outlets — and the plug input 
on the shaver itself was thinner than the older models I had at home, so I wouldn't be able 
to use a cord from a previous model.  Figuring I'd have to buy a bulky plug converter as well, 
I decided against buying the shaver — but perhaps I should have, for when I returned home 
I could have just ordered a cord from Norelco for probably $20 (as the shaver was 120-240V 
compatible).  In the end I managed to find a new one for $89 on Ebay a few weeks later, but 
it still would have been better to have bought it in South Africa.
	The electronics shop also had something I had never seen before: international 
satellite radios which would receive not only local AM/FM signals, but free satellite 
broadcasts as well.  The company operating the system is called WorldSpace 
(http://www.worldspace.com), and two models were available: a large Hitachi portable (KH-
WS1 for R799/US$101.14) and a Sanyo home/luggable unit (DSB-WS1000 for 
R650/US$82.28).  Wanting to buy one to bring home (as they aren't sold in the US), the only 
thing preventing me was their size (even the "portable" unit was pretty large).  I thought 
pehaps I'd leave it in a storage locker in KL along with my duffel bag, but in the end I 
decided against buying one, and saw these radios for sale at only one other place on my trip: 
the Mustafa Centre in Singapore.  There, I was able to look through some brochures and 
find out that the satellites used for the service were being launched one-by-one, and would 
cover almost everywhere EXCEPT North America — so if I were to have bought one, it would 
have been useless back in the USA.
	Walking into the airport branch of "Out Of Africa" (a chain of curio shops with a 
location at the V&A as well), I spent some of my rand to buy a souvenir ceramic cup for 
R25/US$3.16, realizing if I didn't spend the rand I had left it'd just go to waste.  While 
talking to the young black saleslady at the shop, I asked how much she makes at her job... 
her reply was R12.50/US$1.58 an hour, with a 45 minute lunch break.
	At the "Milky Lane" (soft serve ice-cream) counter next to Steers, the sign listed the 
available milkshake flavors, with vanilla, chocolate, Milo (chocolate malt), and strawberry all 
in the R6.50 catagory... however when the lady rung up my order for a Milo shake (before 
actually making it) the register showed R7.95, with her telling me the only R6.50 shakes 
were vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry, refusing to honor the advertised price.  With it being 
blatant false advertising, I walked away and used my remaining rand on two packs of 
Mentos at the candy store (though a bit later I discovered another R50 bill I had tucked 
away — totally useless once I had left South Africa).
	At the Johannesburg airport the telephones worked for overseas calls, and I was able 
to call both my machine at home (to change the outgoing announcement) as well as my 
sister and brother-in-law in Hong Kong until the card ran out.
	The continuation of the flight onto Kuala Lumpur left right on time and actually 
arrived a bit early (at 5:55am KL time), though the game controller was broken for the long 
10-hour flight — and as the aircraft hadn't been back to KL in a few days, the movies on 
board were the same as those offered for December/January.  The flight path took us over 
Mozambique and Mauritius, but as it was cloudy, I couldn't see much of Mauritius from 
above.  Though I was able to rest for a few hours I really couldn't sleep, and by the time we 
arrived into Kuala Lumpur early in the morning, a long day was just beginning.
	Back in Malaysia, I asked the cold, surly staff at the tourist desk for a map and used 
an ATM to get some ringget.  As none of the telephone cards sold at the airport work outside 
KLIA, I didn't waste my money this time, but I still had some Telekom and Time Kontact 
cards left over from before.
	I next found a left-luggage area to leave my grey duffel bag at (with the T-shirts and 
other items I wouldn't need while in Malaysia).  The rate for a small locker (more than large 
enough for the bag) was RM9/US$2.37 per 24hr period, so I rented it for 8 days 
(RM72/US$18.95).  As it was hot and humid in Malaysia (landing at 5:55am it was already 
86F outside), I changed into shorts before heading off to buy my Penang ticket.
	The reservation for my Penang flight was to be held until 7:00am (though the Telex 
from Cape Town would hopefully hold it longer) — but as the plane from South Africa had 
arrived early, I managed to make it to the ticket counter by 7:00am.  After purchasing the 
ticket (RM109/US$28.68 — RM104 plus RM5 airport tax), I went over to KFC for a breakfast 
of chicken nuggets... the price didn't include tax, but at least I was served a free cup of 
water when I asked for one (something McDonald's wouldn't do).
	Having a bit of free time, I called up the cheap hotel in Penang I planned to stay at 
(the Peking Hotel, RM47/US$12.37 with air-con) to make a reservation for the evening.  A 
strange quirk with the airport phones is that they actually do give change back — 
sometimes.  For this call I had RM0.30 credit left from the RM1 coin I put in, and it was 
actually returned — but on a later call where I had RM0.90 credit left, it only returned 
	I went to McDonald's next to order two Egg McMuffins, but they refused to serve me a 
cup of water, saying they didn't have any (in the end, I had to get some from the Chinese 
bartender at the "Traveller's Bar").
	With some of the shops now open, I went into the bookstore to buy another Time 
Kontact card — but upon scratching it off, found some of the numbers barely visible 
(between myself and the store manager we were able to make them out, and used a black 
pen to write them on the card).  Using the card to call my sister in Hong Kong (who had just 
returned from Penang), she gave me plenty of ideas on places to see and things to do.
	Heading next for the gates, I had a very long walk down to where the Penang flight 
would depart from — and I soon noticed how lax security was in Malaysia: as I had no 
check-ins, I put my backpack through the security machine but walked my camera (in a 
large case) and film bag though without anyone asking to examine them — and the camera 
case was large enough to have been anything.  After going through security at the gate, I left 
to call my sister's brother-in-law in Taiping (as the phones were located outside the gate), 
and arranged to meet him over the next few days.
	The plane to Penang was a 747 with international passengers, as it would continue 
onto Hong Kong (further worrysome with the lax security), and departure was almost an 
hour late as the crew waited for some connecting international passengers.
	Penang is an island off the northwest coast of peninsular Malaysia, and immediately 
off the plane it was hot and humid (a sign mentions that Adelaide Australia is Penang's 
sister city... no wonder — they both share the same type of weather).  The first thing I 
wanted to do was get to the hotel, but the taxis in Penang are known for their refusal to use 
meters.  Just at the airport though, a taxi coupon system is in effect, and the fare to 
Georgetown (the main city on the island) is R23/US$6.05.
	Taking the taxi, I was dropped off at the Peking Hotel, a typical cheap Chinese hotel 
with attached "fitness centre" (ie, a place with ladies rather than gym equipment — these are 
common in the area, though at the Peking there was at least a separate entrance).  The hotel 
is just a few doors down from the CitiTel (a newer, fancier hotel I had considered staying at), 
but as I was on a budget, I figured the Peking would be fine.  The first room I looked at had 
a lot of street noise due to a window which wouldn't close fully... the second room had a 
leaking, dripping toilet... and the third had no air-con — so I wound up going back to the 
first room (at least the street noise wasn't too bad, and I did have earplugs).  The Chinese 
staff at the Peking was quite friendly... when I left to go out (mentioning I had turned the air-
con off), the lady at the desk said it was more than OK to leave the air-con on if I wished 
(which I then did) — and also mentioned it wouldn't be a problem for me to leave my luggage 
with her for a few hours tomorrow after checkout.
	After setting my bags down in the room I went out to walk through the streets of 
Georgetown.  In the distance was the large Komtar Tower (it's the tallest building on the 
island), and I decided to head there first, starting down Jalan Penang (the street of the 
Peking Hotel) before turning down some smaller side streets (all throughout the area were 
plenty of old, original buildings and lots of Chinese shops).
	Besides housing plenty of offices, the Komtar Tower is also the main bus station in 
town, and had a large shopping complex.  There's an observation area at the top 
(RM5/US$1.32) with scratched, tinted windows surrounded by a gift shop, but it 
nevertheless affords you a nice view of the city.  Especially impressive is looking down at the 
Chinese section from above, and seeing just how crowded and close all the small shops and 
homes really are.
	When finished with the observation floor, I went down to look at some of the shops 
below, discovering only part of the complex (I'd find the better shops later on).  Disappointed 
(though at least it was air-conditioned), I spent the next 15 minutes searching for the tourist 
information center — only to find that it was closed for lunch until 2:15pm.
	Walking down Jalan Penang again, I passed a small hotel (probably a "fitness centre") 
with a great name: the "Ai Goh Hotel" ("I Go Hotel"?), with "Ai" meaning "love" in Chinese.  
Also in the area was a huge indoor food market, with people selling fish, eggs, spices, and 
various other edibles.  Some smaller streets here appear to have been modernized recently 
with wide, clean sidewalks and pricey shops, but most still keep their older, grimy charm 
(due to the hot sun, most shops have blinds to pull down over their entrances when the sun 
hits the storefront).
	Besides a large Chinatown, there's also a Little India section of the city (Malaysia has 
a large Indian population), and the streets here are lined with stores selling Indian textiles 
and videos, while the smell of Indian spices fills the air.
	As with the rest of Malaysia, Penang was once occupied by the British, and I soon 
found myself in the Colonial District, an area full of buildings displaying traditional British 
architecture.  Many are in excellent shape and are used as office space (one also houses the 
British Council).  While walking down the Esplinade (part of the large grassy park by the 
water), I noticed a sign still up advertising the Population and Housing Census from July 5-
20 2000... the park has a snack bar, a play area for kids, and plenty of grass — as well as 
Ft. Cornwallis, one of the old British forts.
	At Ft. Cornwallis, I noticed a sign indicating that due to construction, a temporary 
entrance was located on the other side... searching for quite a while, I finally found it, but 
decided to keep walking for now and return back to see it later.
	To get between Penang and Butterworth (on the mainland), you can either drive 
across a new, modern bridge or take the ferry (for both pedestrians and cars).  With it being 
so hot and humid, I figured a nice cheap way to cool off would be a ferry ride to the 
mainland and back, as it's free for pedestrians going from Penang to Butterworth, and costs 
only RM0.60/US16c in the other direction.  The trip takes about 12 minutes each way (plus 
the time it takes for the cars to get on and off at each side), though if you want to go round-
trip, you must exit and re-enter the ferry at Butterworth to pay your RM0.60.  The posted 
"no smoking" signs (with a fine of RM1,000/US$263) didn't stop a local from lighting up, 
and no one (including ferry employees) seemed to care.  The area where passengers sit is 
covered, but allows a nice breeze to come in... and the ride was indeed a pleasant, cheap 
way to cool off.
	Once back at the Penang ferry terminal I went to go have a look at some of the nearby 
clan piers... these are multiple old wooden piers sticking out into the water, on which 
various families have build their homes.  They appear to be occupied mostly by Chinese 
families, and even though the small wooden homes are built extremely close to each other, 
many have a porch or an area for potted plants... every home had a TV antenna, and some 
even had a satellite dish as well.  Many were adorned with Chinese decorations (red lanterns 
by the entrances), and looking down the main "street" of the pier, I realized it would almost 
pass for a typical Penang street — just with wooden planks instead of tar.  People were 
sitting out in front of their homes watching the afternoon go by, talking amongst themselves 
or hanging laundry up to dry, and seemed to be content with their lives.  Some of the piers 
even have small stores on them, and in a house-store, I bought a cold "Fizzi"-brand cola 
(with no caffeine).
	Georgetown is full of cars and bikes, but most areas have few traffic signals.  One car 
prolific in Malaysia is a small, locally-produced hatchback named the Perodua "Kancil" (a 
bad choice of name in English, though in Malay it means a type of small deer) — and though 
Japanese cars are commonplace in the country, many choose to drive Malaysian-made 
Peroduas or Protons.
	Walking back to Fort Cornwallis, I went in for a look (RM1): inside, construction and 
restoration work was going on through March, and there wasn't much to see (it's mostly 
interesting as a historical landmark).  Along its ramparts are some canons facing the water, 
but after spending a few minutes at the Fort, I soon left (noticing a sign across the street 
indicating the future site of the Penang Yacht Club).
	Strolling through Little India, I stopped at a small internet business on the corner of 
Lebuh Penang and Lebuh Cina to check my email — the cheapest place for internet access I 
had seen advertised on Penang so far was RM2/US53c an hour, but the place I found (TRX 
Internet Cafe) wasn't bad: RM2.50/US66c an hour or RM1.50/US39c for 30 minutes.  
Inside and upstairs (with no air-con) I checked my email for a half-hour, wrote to friends, 
and verified with the hotel broker that I indeed wanted the room at the Hotel Nova next 
	Though the Little India area is quite interesting, I began to feel a bit drowsy... so I 
returned to the hotel for a brief rest in the air-con room before going back out again at 
5:45pm to the Komtar Tower.  Along the way, I noticed that white tourists seemed to be 
everywhere — more so here than other parts of Malaysia (it seemed there were as many 
tourists walking around Penang as there were locals).
	On the lower levels of Komtar I found the other large shopping area with the better 
stores, but decided to return tomorrow for another look.  After ordering an oreo soft-serve 
cup at McDonald's, I left to find the food stalls in the area, as it would soon be dinnertime 
and I didn't want to stay up late (my sister had given me the location of a food-stall area 
when I talked with her earlier).  Along the way I passed a camera store, and just for the heck 
of it, decided to walk in and see if they might have a replacement lens.  Out of sheer luck 
they actually did, though it was far from the best I could buy: in stock was a 28-200mm 
"Makinon" lens (an off-brand labelled "Lens Made in Japan", but probably assembled in 
Hong Kong) which the guy said he'd sell for RM580/US$152.63, giving me a "discount" off 
the "marked" price of RM690.  As I had left my camera back at the hotel, I told him I'd 
return tomorrow with the camera to try it out, and asked him to write the price on his 
business card and give me directions to the food-stalls.
	Turning down a side street I finally came to the hawker stalls my sister had 
recommended: they congregate right by the large Sunway Hotel, but note that all the stalls 
here are Chinese.  I tried some Chee Cheong Fun (large rice noodles with plum and chili 
sauce, RM1.20/US32c for a small — one of my favorite snacks and very similar to the Dug 
Poki I had in Korea two years earlier) and Chiou Koay Teow (very good fried noodles with 
sprouts, shrimp, and beef — normally RM2.50, but RM3/US79c with egg), before ordering 
more Chee Cheong Fun from another vendor.  There were also tables selling bootleg VCDs 
for RM6/US1.58, and Penang turned out to be the cheapest place in Malaysia to find not 
only VCDs but software CD-ROMs was well.
	Walking back to the hotel, most of the shops along Jalan Penang were closed already, 
though I did find a nice embroidered T-shirt for RM11.90/US$3.13 in a general discount 
store (not bad, but I later found the same shirt elsewhere for RM8).  I then headed down 
Kimberly Street in hopes of finding some Malay food stalls, but even here they were all 
Chinese.  After buying a doughnut for RM0.60/US16c, I saw a table selling not only VCDs 
but DVDs as well: the DVD selection wasn't anywhere near as good as the VCDs, but they 
did have Fantasia 2000 on an all-region DVD.  Though the lady at the table had a VCD 
player and TV, there was no DVD player to demonstrate the disc on — but taking a chance, 
I decided to buy it (more as an experiment than anything else) for RM20/US$5.26.  When I 
asked about lowering the price, the lady said she'd lower it if I bought more discs, but as I 
just wanted one to test, didn't bother bargaining further.  Upon returning home I tried out 
the disc, and it worked fine (I also tested out the region settings, as my player has selectable 
regions — and the DVD played no matter which region I set my player to).
	When finished on Kimberly Street, I stopped at Yasmeen Restaurant on Jalan Penang 
for some squid & egg (RM3/US79c) and spicy lamb rice (RM2.5/US66c).  Interestingly, 
though the place seemed to be Indian-run, they were serving spicy beef.  Stopping finally at 
the 7-11 to buy some water and soda, I was back at the hotel by 9:15pm... the end of a long 
two days.

Feb. 3: Penang [Penang Hill / Kek Lok See Temple] / Batu Ferringhi
	Waking up with the alarm at 7:45am today, I managed to sleep through the leaky 
toilet and the noise outside.  After a shower, I left my bag with the lady downstairs and went 
	The first thing I wanted to do this morning was head for Penang Hill and its 
funicular.  Walking down Jalan Penang, I soon caught Bus 101 in front of the bookstore at 
Jalan Penang and Lebuh Chulia... the bus fares are posted on small stickers by the door 
(RM0.80/US21c for this one), and change isn't returned.  Thankfully the bus was air-
conditioned, though I had to transfer to a special bus (Bus #8, RM0.70/US18c) for the last 
stretch up to the funicular station (this second bus actually has a change lady on board).  
Both the driver and change lady on Bus #8 were Chinese, and while waiting for it to depart, 
the lady asked me where I was from, and how I was enjoying Malaysia.
	Though there were a lot of people in line at the funicular station, it wasn't as crowded 
today as it can be on weekends or holidays, and the wait wasn't too long (cars depart every 
30 minutes).  The fare is RM4/US$1.05 return or RM3/US79c each way, though if you have 
your own transportation you can also drive to the top.  Built in 1922 by the Swiss, the 
original tracks are still used, though the original cars were replaced with new ones in 1977.  
The up and down trains run symetrically using the same track (except at the point where 
they'd otherwise hit each other — here the track briefly splits in two), and the journey to the 
top is in two stages, with a half-way station in the middle.  Getting out briefly at the station, 
I didn't realize it was only the halfway point, and began taking pictures — until I noticed 
everyone else lining up for the approaching second car.  The upper half has stations along 
the way where the car will stop if requested (or if someone is waiting) — though if you wish 
to get out at one of these earlier platforms, be sure and tell the conductor beforehand or the 
car won't stop (as with the up and down cars operating symetrically, your conductor must 
inform his counterpart that a stop will be needed).  There were indeed stops requsted this 
morning, but mostly by workers at some of the fancy homes nestled in the hills, or by an 
occasional hiker.  On the way up, I noticed a huge western-style mansion with a large green 
lawn, and found out on the way down that it was originally built by a Brit, but is now owned 
by a wealthy Chinese family.  The area contains some apartment blocks and moderate 
homes as well, with access either from the funicular or the road.
	Riding the funicular will give you a typical taste of Malaysia: in the crammed cars 
many people were coughing without covering their mouths, and while waiting to get onto the 
second car, someone stepped on my foot in the mad stampede to get a seat.  Still, the 25 
minute ride each way (for both halves) was pleasant and well worth doing.
	At the top of Penang Hill the temperature is cooler than down below (as it's about 
2,000ft above sea level), and there's a nice view of the island and some walks (including a 
long 7km trail down to a waterfall).  Not having too much time though, I decided just to have 
a look around the summit... walking out of the station, I soon came to both a Muslim 
mosque and a Hindu temple and tea room, and had a quick peek in at each.  There's 
accomodation available at the Bellevue Hotel (RM120/US$31.58 a night), and I stopped at 
its neighboring Bellevue Bird Aviary (RM2/US53c): though small, it nonetheless had many 
interesting birds from not only southeast Asia, but Africa, Australia, and other countries 
around the world.
	After exploring the top for a while, I tried calling my sister's brother-in-law with a 
Time Kontact card from two different phones.  Each time though, I received a recording 
saying "calls to this number (the Time Kontact access number) aren't allowed"... finally going 
back to the station to wait for a car down, I watched a Malay man make grasshoppers out of 
palm frongs to sell to the kids for RM1/US26c.
	Back at the bottom, I was surprised to see no waiting taxis... but when one finally did 
arrive, I asked the driver how much he'd charge to take me to the nearby Kek Lok See 
Chinese temple: his first answer was RM10/US$2.63, so I asked "how about 
RM5/US$1.31?" — but as his final offer was "for you, RM8/US$2.11", I just decided to wait 
for the bus (RM0.70/US18c).  When Bus #8 arrived a few minutes later (different driver, 
same change lady), the lady told me it'd be another 15 minutes before it departed, so I 
hopped out to use the loo and the Telekom Malaysia card phones nearby (which actually 
worked).  After calling my sister's brother-in-law and arranging to meet him tomorrow, I 
called both Singapore and Malaysian Airlines to reconfirm the reservations I had on each for 
a flight to Singapore tomorrow evening (as each offered different times).
	Getting off the bus near the base of Kek Lok See Temple, I had a look up at the 
impressive complex on the hill: though modern, it's one of the largest and nicest Chinese 
temples in Malaysia, and definitely worth the trip.  One note to fellow travellers: if you want 
to buy anything (from water to T-shirts), buy it on the street before you enter the temple 
grounds (I picked up two small waters here for RM1/US26c each, and noticed that just a bit 
further up they were as high as RM1.90/US50c.  Likewise, the same T-shirts which were 
RM8/US$2.11 here were RM10/US$2.63 inside — and there were plenty of nice ones as low 
as RM5/US$1.32 here as well).
	The temple grounds are built on a hill with ascending levels reflecting a mix of 
different styles (Chinese, Thai, etc.), and the covered walk up to the grounds has dozens of 
stalls selling everything from T-shirts to snacks to children's toys.  Though admittance to 
part of the temple is free, if you want to visit the pagoda there's a mandatory RM2/US53c 
"contribution."  It's possible to climb to the top of the pagoda, but not finding the entrance at 
first, I turned around to leave — only to look behind me to see other visitors peering out 
from the top.  Deciding to go back and have another look (having to once more pay the 
entrance fee), I finally found the stairway.  There are 194 steps (though many are quite small 
and it's not a hard climb), and from the top are excellent views of both the rest of the 
grounds as well as much of the island itself.  Besides the pagoda, the temple also has 
various shrine areas and a giant bell you can ring (with a date of 1993 in Chinese).
	Walking back when finished, I ignored most of the vendors, but did stop at one to 
buy an embroidered T-shirt (originally RM10/US$2.63, though the lady went down to 
RM9/US$2.37).  Out on the street below though, the T-shirts were even cheaper (without 
having to bargain), and I picked up a different one for RM5/US$1.32.  As the lady was 
handing me the T-shirt, I asked her where the bus stop was: unmarked, it's just down the 
street next to a yellow sign reading "Las Junnie Unisex Salon" (there's also a small 
unmarked store there as well).  There were some students and locals waiting too, but when 
the minibus finally came by (RM0.70), it was so crowded that only a few of us could get on.  
I was able to board, but had to stand by the open door (almost hanging out of it) until a few 
stops later when we were squeezed in even more as someone else took my spot.
	Back at Komtar, I discovered the Komtar Bazaar on the 2F (one floor below 
McDonalds)... as yesterday was a Friday, many of the shops had been closed, but today 
everything was open.  A good place for general shopping, this (as well as the large mall 
across the street) is also a good place to find bootleg CD-ROMs — and what's surprising is 
that they aren't sold on little tables in back alleys, but in clean, brightly-lit, well-advertised 
shops whose only purpose is to sell these CD-ROMs.  The prices in Penang are much better 
than in KL or Batu Ferringhi, with most shops asking RM7/US$1.84 — though when I 
picked up 11 at one shop, the employee voluntarily lowered the price to RM6/US$1.58 (and 
for the two titles that were slightly more, from RM12/US$3.16 to RM9/US$2.37), for a total 
of RM74/US$19.47 for 11 CD-ROM titles — many of which would cost hundreds of dollars a 
piece at home.  As my computer didn't even have a working CD-ROM drive, I picked them 
up just as an experiment, but anything you might need for your Windows or Mac machine is 
freely available here.  Surprised at how casual and out-in-the-open this all was (I even 
received a receipt), my suggestion to the software industry is to forget Hong Kong and 
concentrate on Malaysia, for I doubt there is one legitimate software copy sold in the 
	Besides normal tourist-related stores, the Komtar Bazaar also has a few non-tourist 
shops ranging from electrical equpiment suppliers (wires, light switches, etc.) to a stamp-
collector's shop (where I bought 2 keychains for RM1.50/US39c each).
	Walking up to the McDonald's level, I saw that the tourist information window was 
now open.  Unlike the tourist desk at KLIA, this desk was staffed by two Chinese-Malaysians 
— and instead of receiving a cold shoulder, I was happily given all the bus information I 
needed (on how to get to Batu Ferringhi).
	Walking out of Komtar to check out the large 6-story mall across the street, I noticed 
that a good percentage of its shops were computer CD-ROM stores as well... walking in 
"Virgo Computer", I picked up two more CD-ROMs for RM7/US$1.84 each.
	Needing more cash, I walked back into Komtar to use the ATM across from 
McDonald's... and as I had skipped breakfast and lunch, ordered my first food all day (a 
McDonald's chocolate soft-serve cone).
	With it now already after 2:00pm, I left Komtar to re-visit the camera store with the 
Makinon lens.  While it did indeed work, I could tell that it wasn't a high-quality assembly (it 
was almost impossible to fit a filter onto the unit, and the AE-1 Program's light meter only 
went to 4 rather than 2.8).  Still, the lens I was using was on its last leg (requiring me to 
wiggle it into focus each time), so I decided to buy the lens for RM580/US$152.63 (getting 
them to throw in two rolls of Fuji Superia 200/36 film for my old Vivitar lens).  The Makinon 
lens worked for the rest of the trip, but soon became stiff, noisy, and difficult to zoom with 
— so upon returning home I decided just to buy another Vivitar 28-210mm lens.
	Returning back to the hotel to pick up my backpack, I thanked the lady there for 
watching it, and walked all the way back to Komtar in the heat to catch Bus #202 out to 
Batu Ferringhi, a nice stretch of beach located a bit out of Georgetown.  Though the fare was 
RM1.70/US45c, I only had an RM2 coin — but quickly put it in so I could grab a seat before 
all were taken (as it's a 30-40 minute trip).
	Batu Ferringhi is a popular tourist destination with foreigners and locals alike, so 
hotel prices aren't as cheap as elsewhere in Malaysia.  Because of this, I pre-booked a room 
over the internet for tonight before leaving on my trip, deciding on a large self-catering 
apartment complex called "Sri Sayang Resort Service Apartments" (not to be confused with 
the "Rasa Sayang" resort across the street).  Various internet hotel brokers offered rates 
from RM88 to RM138 for the same room, but there's also a RM50 surcharge for Saturday 
nights.  However a broker in Singapore quoted a rate of RM108/US$28.42 for any day 
(including Saturday), so I decided to go with them (otherwise the cheapest would been 
RM138/US$36.32 [RM88+RM50]).  Though I had given my credit card number to guarantee 
the reservation, I was worried that the resort wouldn't honor the quoted price (since it was 
obvious the broker had screwed up by forgetting about the RM50 surcharge).  Walking into 
the lobby, the posted daily rates were RM88 (lower than the RM108 rate from the broker), 
and the Indian check-in lady soon asked me for RM138 (RM88+RM50)... when I mentioned 
that I had been guaranteed a rate of RM108 even for Saturday, the lady looked up my file, 
verified it, and even though it was the broker who screwed up, honored the 
RM108/US$28.42 rate.
	The ride out to Batu Ferringhi took 40 minutes today by bus, and though I asked the 
driver to let me know when it was time to get off, he didn't (luckily I noticed the apartments 
and immediately rang the bell for the bus to stop).  The large white 32-story Sri Sayang 
Resort Apartment building is pretty much the first accomodation in the area (on the left), 
though it's also quite close to the hotels.  Asking for a room on a higher floor while checking 
in, I was first given 1605 — though the air-con unit was busted and the card-lock was 
broken — so I went back to ask for another room, and was given 1604: large and spacious, 
it had a nice main room (with a balcony overlooking the street/ocean), two bedrooms, two 
bathrooms (one with a bath/shower), air-con, fan, a kitchen with a fridge, and other 
amenities — and reminded me of my stay at Les Cases Fleuries in Mauritius (another self-
catering flat, though on a much smaller scale).
	Setting my bags down at 5:22pm, I changed into swim trunks and went down to the 
lobby to drop some vaulables off in a safe deposit box.  Though guests are usually supposed 
to keep their own key, I decided to ask the check-in lady if she wouldn't mind holding it for 
just an hour or so while I went swimming (she kindly agreed).  Crossing the street, I wound 
up walking through the lobby and grounds of the fancy Rasa Sayang resort to get to the 
beachfront (as with the similar name, I at first thought they were owned by the same people 
— but this isn't the case).
	At the beach by the Rasa Sayang resort is a large area just for swimming (roped off so 
as not to interfere with jet skis, parasailing, and other activities) — and I was surprised to 
see no one else in the water.  It was 5:30pm but still quite warm even with the clouds... 
going in, I enjoyed the wonderfully warm water for 45 minutes, relaxing and swimming out 
to the deep section while watching one of the local parasail operators take clients up for a 
ride.  After a while I decided to ask how much a ride was... the man replied "usually 
RM75/US$19.74, but if you don't tell anyone, RM50/US$13.16" (there was a parasail-
booking desk on the hotel grounds, and I can only assume the hotel takes a large cut of the 
fare).  As I've parasailed enough before, it wasn't something I had to do, but thought it might 
be pleasant nonetheless.  Though ready to stop for the day, the guy said he'd fit me in — 
and when I said I'd have to first go to my room to get the money to pay him, he replied 
"that's ok, I trust you, do it later" (though he thought I was staying at the Rasa Sayang 
resort, and when I then mentioned I was staying across the street, he seemed a bit more 
apprehensive).  Still, he was ready to go ahead with it until his parnter (operating the boat) 
came by to talk about the weather conditions.  A minute later, he told me that the wind was 
now coming from offshore, and it wasn't safe to go out anymore... asking if I'd like to do it 
tomorrow morning instead, he vowed to still honor the RM50 rate.  Telling him I'd be leaving 
early in the morning, I was disappointed, but his reply was "as much as I'd like to earn the 
RM50, I have to think about your safety... as you can see, the wind has changed... if you can 
come back tomorrow morning I'd be happy to take you for RM50, but we really can't go up 
with conditions like this right now."  So with that, I went back in the water to swim and 
relax, watching as he and his partner packed up for the evening.
	Walking back through the Rasa Sayang lobby, I asked one of the employees if the 
hotel was owned by the same people who own the Sri Sayang apartments across the street.  
Being told no, I felt bad about walking through their lobby in swim trunks — but it's how I 
was told to reach the beach by the staff at the Sri Sayang.
	Back at Sri Sayang I noticed their swimming pool, and even though I had just come 
from the ocean, decided to give it a try, as there was a waterslide off to one side.  With water 
gushing down a twisting, turning tube, the slide was a bit smaller than something you'd find 
at a water park, but was certainly just as nice (no mats required).  As the only people in the 
pool were a few kids off in the shallow end, I immediately climbed the stairs to use the slide 
nonstop for the next half-hour... I lost count of how many times I went on the thing, but it 
sure was a lot of fun (especially trying it in different directions... forward, backward, sitting 
up, lying down, etc).
	Finally finished with water, I collected the safe deposit key (and my wallet) before 
going back up to the room to change. Batu Ferringhi has a large night market, and I wanted 
to spend the evening exploring the area (the Sri Sayang Apartments are situated at one end 
of town, and I spent the next few hours walking through town towards the other end).  There 
was an occasional light drizzle, but I didn't even go back to get the umbrella, as it was still 
quite warm and pleasant.
	I soon passed a seafood restaurant with specimens of all types on display in the lobby 
(which you can order), including crayfish (RM18/100gms), goby fish (RM18/100gms), a 
large morra eel (RM17/100gms), and a huge estuary garoupa (RM26/100gms).  Though 
there are more restaurants than hawker stalls here, there are still plenty of stalls around, 
and in one area they all share a large covered eating space where you can sit and relax (and 
order drinks if you wish).  Stopping at an Indian-run stall, I ordered a chicken murtabak 
(pancake) for RM2.50/US66c... it was really good, and I would have ordered another had I 
not wanted to save my appetite for other things.  I next tried some "satay on a stick" (good, 
but a total ripoff at RM4.50/US$1.18 for 6 tiny pieces of chicken or beef), and while waiting 
for it to be cooked, had a look in at the small market next door.  With Batu Ferringhi being a 
tourist area, stores here were more expensive than elsewhere on the island... for example, 
one store was asking RM1.80 for a can of Bitter Lemon soda (I didn't buy it, and soon found 
another store charging "only" RM1.40), and the internet connections here are a rip-off by 
Malaysian standards (one sign touted "INTERNET: RM4" in big letters — but only in small 
print did it say "per 1/2 hour" — this is double what the rates are elsewhere).
	At 7:30pm the sound of prayers blasting from loudspeakers could be heard, and 
some of the vendors finally began to set up their tables (much later here than in other 
cities).  The usual items were for sale: T-shirts, fake watches, CDs, VCDs, CD-ROMs — but 
were too expensive (for instance, pirate multi-game GameBoy carts were going for 
RM188/US$49.48!)  I wound up walking all the way to the other end of the town (stopping 
at the halfway point to step into the lobby of the Holiday Inn for a quick peek, as I had 
originally considered staying there) — and upon reaching the end, turned around to walk 
back.  By now it was dark, and all the hawkers were in full swing, with plenty of tourists 
interested in the fake watches — but as it started to drizzle more, I headed back to the room 
to pick up an umbrella, figuring I'd go out again soon.
	Upon reaching my room however, I suddenly fell violently ill, and began to vomit 
uncontrollably — no matter how hard I tried to keep it down, I couldn't, and the toilet in the 
main bathroom soon became full of vomit.  I had no idea what was going on, as I had felt 
fine up until that moment and had never vomited with so much force before.  After a while, I 
finally thought it was over, but 20 minutes later I was vomiting into the sink — and no 
matter how hard I tried to stop, I couldn't (by now, it wouldn't even go down the drain, so 
the entire bathroom had a horrible smell).  Finally sitting down in the main room, I felt 
extremely weak and shaky with a horrible aftertaste in my mouth.  I wanted to go right to 
sleep... going out again was now definitely out of the question, but I stayed awake to write in 
my journal and try to figure out what had just happened.  Obviously something had been in 
the food I ate, but I could only guess at what it was.  I first suspected the squid & egg from 
last night, but it seemed to me that if this was the case the reaction would have happened 
sooner — so in all likelihood it was either the satay or the Indian pancake, but I'll never 
know for sure.  At any rate, at least the toxins had exited my body with force, and though 
weak, I didn't have another relapse (as a precaution I took some Imodium tablets 
afterwards, though I don't think they made a difference).  The bathroom was now a mess, 
and though I cleaned up what I could, the sink would unfortunately be extra work for 
housekeeping the next day.
	I finally tried to sleep, but as weak and tired as I was, it wasn't easy: first, there was 
a Chinese party going on a few floors below, with the noise being heard throughout the 
building... and second, my mouth was like a dry cotton ball all night — no matter how much 
I filled my stomach up with water, I couldn't get the dryness out of it.  To top it off, because I 
had the chills, I turned off the air-con — but at 2:45am it was so stuffy in the room that I 
had to turn it back on.  Though the party noise stopped after midnight, I spent the night in 
a daze between being awake and half-asleep, with a dry, parched mouth — and I'd have to 
be up at 6:15am.

Feb. 4: Taiping / Singapore (Singapore)
	I was so tired this morning it was good that I set multiple alarms on my watch... it 
was hard to drag myself out of bed, and I only had 10 minutes in which to get up, gather my 
things, and check out of the place.  The lobby receptionist had told me yesterday that the 
first bus of the day to Georgetown came by at 6:25am, so after checking out, I walked across 
the road in the dark, set my things down, and looked for an approaching bus in front of the 
Rasa Sayang Resort (as I couldn't find the official bus stop in the dark, I just watched the 
oncoming traffic for a bus).  At 6:35am a bus came by, but waking up this early turned out 
to be all for nothing: the reason I wanted such an early start was so I could catch a 9:00am 
bus to Taiping from the Komtar Bus station — but as I later found out, the first bus of the 
day to Taiping wouldn't leave until 11:00am.  At any rate the bus to Georgetown stopped for 
me (RM1.40), and though there were still plenty of seats, I was surprised to see it already 
half full so early on a Sunday morning.  With little traffic out on the road, the trip only took 
30 minutes this morning as the driver propelled the bus as if he were trying to set an all-
time speed record — and though he said he'd let me know when we arrived at Komtar, he 
didn't (it was still dark, so it was hard for me to tell where I was).  Luckily, as one passenger 
rang the bell to stop I heard other passengers mention "Komtar" — and after watching many 
of them leave, asked one if we were at Komtar yet.  Indeed we were, so I hurridly left myself, 
walking the few blocks to the bus station in the dark.
	At the tourist information desk the other day I was told there was a 9:00am "Super 
Ria" bus to Kamunting/Taiping (Kamunting is the actual bus stop, as Taiping is a bit off the 
main highway)... but when I arrived at the station all was quiet, with the ticket offices closed 
and only a few people waiting around.  A Chinese vendor selling snacks (one of the two food 
shops open) invited me to sit down at his table to wait, pointing out a ticket office for Super 
Ria and saying they wouldn't open until 7:50am.  As he was asking a very expensive 
RM2/US53c for a can of "100 Plus" soda (usually RM1.30-RM1.40 elsewhere), I first tried to 
get a RM0.70 Coke from the only vending machine in the area — but upon seeing it broken, 
I decided to pay the high price, as my mouth was still incredibly dry and "100 Plus" is a 
electrolyte replenishment drink (I later ordered a second can as well, figuring that as much 
as I hate being ripped off, it was worth the US15c difference in price).
	Slowly more people began to arrive, including other tourists.  When one of the other 
ticket windows opened, I asked the man there if he sold tickets to Taiping/Kamunting — but 
was told I'd have to go across the street for a Taiping ticket.  Unsure what to do (as the office 
which the Chinese vendor pointed out did indeed have a "Super Ria" sign), I decided to wait 
for this "Super Ria" window to open at 7:50am — only to be told by the lady there that I'd 
indeed need to go across the street for a Taiping/Kamunting ticket.  Lugging my bag across 
the street just as this other ticket window was opening, I soon found out that there was no 
longer a 9:00am bus to Kamunting — and the first bus of the day wouldn't leave until 
11:00am.  I now wasn't sure what to do... not only was I angry at having woken up so early 
for nothing (especially being so weak), but taking such a late bus would give me precious 
little time in Taiping — as I'd have to return back to Penang this evening for my flight to 
Singapore.  Though I had two different plane reservations (7:10pm on Malaysian and 
9:10pm on Singapore), I really wanted to take the earlier flight — for if I took the later one, I 
wouldn't arrive at the hotel until after midnight (not something I wanted to do with the way I 
was feeling).
	Without much choice, I bought a ticket for the 11:00am bus (RM7.35/US$1.93)... 
since I had a few hours to wait though, I asked the ticket lady if I could leave my heavy 
backpack with her (she was nice enough to let me — though I took the camera).  At first I 
was going to waste the morning looking around the Komtar shops again... but feeling that I 
really should find a way to get to Taiping earlier, I decided to ask a few taxi drivers how 
much they'd charge to take me to Kamunting (as in Penang none of the taxi drivers use 
meters, and you must bargain for your fare — if you're a tourist, forget about paying 
anything near what a local would pay).  The first taxi wanted RM100/US$26.32 (going down 
to RM80/US$21.05), though the next one wanted RM120 (followed by another standing firm 
at RM100).  Knowing I was being ripped off immensely, I decided to leave the station area, 
and soon found myself at the fancy hotel behind Komtar.  Inside, I asked the concierge lady 
how much a taxi to Taiping/Kamunting should be... she answered "around RM25/US$6.58" 
— so I asked if she could flag one down for me herself.  However as soon as the taxi driver 
saw I was to be the passenger, the lady came back to say the driver was firm in asking 
RM120 (I of course declined).
	Walking back to the station, I tried to find the first taxi driver who said he'd take me 
for RM80, but he was no longer around.  Asking another driver, the young guy at first said 
RM100 but finally went down to RM80 once I mentioned another driver had agreed to RM80 
(though he wouldn't go down any further, saying there's a bridge toll to pay — even though I 
noticed it was only a RM3.50 toll each way).  Figuring I'd better take it even at a price 3 
times more than a local, I asked him to wait while I went to fetch my bag from the ticket 
	Sitting in the front of the taxi, the driver asked for RM40 up front so he could put 
some petrol in the car... a bit hesitant at first, I did give it to him, as it was only half of the 
promised RM80.  After stopping for petrol we started on our way, and I managed to have an 
interesting conversation with the young Malay driver on everything from cars to daily life in 
the US (I think it helped when I told him that my sister's brother-in-law was Malaysian and 
living in Taiping — though I didn't mention he was Malaysian-Chinese): the driver was 
currently studying compters, but was driving a taxi on the side to support his family... as 
well as Proton, Perodua is also a Malaysian-made car, and "Kancil" (a popular Perodua 
hatchback model) is the Malay name for a type of small animal... the hundreds of palm trees 
along the road are palm oil plantations... all over the country, I'd see signs saying "Follow 
Me" — but the driver said they were ads for a brand of shampoo... we also talked about the 
different prices of everything from cars to homes in both the US and Malaysia, as well as 
how to say certain words in Malay.  The scenery on the long trip (1hr 15mins by taxi at 
110kph) was quite boring, with the only interesting part being the long bridge connecting 
Penang with he mainland (toll: RM3.50/US92c).
	Arriving at the Kamunting bus station at 9:45am, I gave my sister's brother-in-law 
Thomas a call... he was expecting me a bit later, but said it wouldn't be a problem, and 
would be by in 10 minutes to pick me up in front of the KFC.  About 10 minutes later 
Thomas came by in his dad's Proton and took me back to his place, a nice little home in a 
residential part of town.  Some houses in the area are sold with the land forever, but a 
cheaper option is to buy a 99-year lease — something Thomas and his wife did, figuring that 
in 99 years they would no longer be around and their children might very well want to live 
	Though Thomas is originally from the suburbs of KL, Thomas' wife is from Taiping... 
both decided to settle here because of the town's peaceful, slow lifestyle (many would call it 
boring, but Thomas said that when you've had it with KL, this is the perfect place to live).  
Though Thomas was currently taking a break from work until March, his current job is in 
public relations with a private healthcare company — and he mentioned that while the state 
does offer medical services, if people can afford it they'll opt for private healthcare and 
hospitals, as they tend to be much better than the government-run ones.  Thomas was also 
about to start his own business — an IT/computer school in the area, saying that while 
such schools can be found everywhere in KL, there were hardly any in the Taiping area.
	After I dropped off my backpack and told Thomas about getting sick last night, he 
asked if I wanted to sleep for a while... but not wanting to waste the day, I said I'd be OK.  
Showing Thomas the CD-ROMs I bought in Georgetown, he was interested in the one with 
Windows ME (as one he purchased elsewhere included an incorrect serial number) — so as I 
checked my email on his laptop, he ran off a copy to try later on.  While on hold with 
Malaysian Airlines to re-confirm my flight and get and assigned seat, I asked Thomas about 
TV in the area: there are 4 off-air channels, but Thomas also subscribes to satellite TV 
(about US$20 a month) and has a VCD player as well.  A big fan of Babylon 5, Thomas 
mentioned it was currently being shown late at night on normal TV... and said radio stations 
in the area will play songs in Malay, English, and Chinese.
	The name "Taiping" means "peaceful city", though in the late 1800s the area suffered 
from waring Chinese triads feuding over tin.  Though the city was once just a tin-mining 
town, it has now become one of the greenest cities in Malaysia, with the old tin mines now 
turned into parks with plenty of trees and reflective lakes (complete with paddle boats).  The 
government even bought up an old private golf course to turn into a park, and people come 
from all over the country to enjoy the city's quiet pace (many newlyweds come to have their 
wedding pictures taken in the park or along the tree-lined street which surrounds it).  As 
peaceful a city as Taiping is though, it houses not only a local army base but the largest 
prison in Malaysia — as well as a second prison for political prisoners.  Though it's 
considered to be one of the rainiest cities in the country, there was nothing but blue in the 
sky today (with plenty of heat and humidity).
	Going out for a drive around the area, we skipped the nearby hill but spent some 
time around the parks and lakes (there's a zoo, but other than stopping for a Pepsi, we 
didn't bother with it).  Stopping at a CalTex station in town for petrol, I noticed the price was 
only the equivalent of US$1.19/US Gallon — and Thomas mentioned that petrol was one of 
the many products which the government subsidizes or puts price-controls on in order to 
help out its Malay population, though of course it winds up helping everyone (the 
government sets limits on how much can be charged for certain items... besides petrol, food 
staples such as rice, chicken, and fish are on the list).
	The Malay-run government gives ethnic Malays special opportunities and programs 
available only to them, from lower bank loan rates to certain civil service jobs (in a 
newspaper you'll often see it indicated that a job is available only for an ethnic Malay — 
though Thomas commented that most Chinese wouldn't want these public service jobs 
anyway).  I was surprised to hear Thomas take this blatant discrimination in stride — but 
he felt that if such things weren't offered there'd be even more hostility and backlash against 
the generally more affluent Chinese and Indian population in the country (such as what 
happened in Indonesia not too long ago)... if it helped to keep the peace, he was all for it.
	Malay is the country's national language, and Thomas learned it in school (he can 
also speak English and Chinese)... when I earlier asked the taxi driver if he had learned any 
Chinese (as a large percentage of the country's population is Chinese), he said no.  Wearing 
shorts as I was, Thomas mentioned that 15 years ago dress wasn't as strict as it has become 
today, saying you'd hardly ever see a woman wearing a veil 15 years ago... and while there is 
official religious freedom in the country, if non-Muslim kids go to school in shorts they'll 
stand out, so most tend to dress as the Muslims do (including full body coverage during PE 
on hot, humid days) — though after school and on the streets, most Chinese will wear 
shorts and western-style clothing.
	Driving around town, Thomas pointed out the different architectural styles in the 
area: old tin houses, stately British buildings, Malay-style homes on stilts, and newer, more 
western-looking houses (with virtually no grafitti anywhere).  The Malay are given their own 
land and generally seem happy to stay on it and farm rather than starting an 
entrepreneurial business, with the majority of businesses in the country being run by 
Chinese or Indian Malaysians.  When I asked about all the "Silverstone" billboards I had 
seen (as well as a building with a Silverstone sign), Thomas mentioned they were a tire 
manufacturer, and had a factory nearby.
	Stopping to walk around the downtown area, I saw its appearance was similar to that 
of any mid-size Malaysian city, with plenty of storefronts, marketplaces, and food stalls 
(decorative red Chinese lanterns were hanging over the streets, leftover no doubt from the 
recent Chinese New Years).  Stopping in at a small store, I bought a popsicle for myself — it 
was the first thing I had all day that made my mouth feel better (I couldn't handle anymore 
water or soda), and wound up returning later for another one on the way back.  In town I 
was able to get a close look at some of the old tin houses which still remain, before spending 
some time walking through the covered marketplace (busy on a Sunday, with everything 
from French apples to soursops to durians for sale).
	After walking a bit more, we went back in the car to drive to Thomas' in-laws so I 
could meet his wife and two kids (staying there for the day).  With Thomas' older daughter 
watching TV (a kid's game show in Malay mimicing a video-game), we talked for a bit before 
leaving to visit the local museum.  Housed in an old colonial-style building, the museum 
(free admission) was quite interesting (if hot — there's no air-con), and contained displays of 
everything from Malaysian swords and native garb to exhibits on various wildlife found in 
the area.
	Returning back to the house at 2:10pm, I decided I'd try to catch the earlier flight to 
Singapore tonight, as there wasn't really too much to see in Taiping (though it's a nice city to 
live in and spend a relaxing day at). Picking up my bag, we drove to the Kamunting bus 
station to see that the only bus back to Georgetown left at 6:00pm (the ticket office lady this 
morning told me there were hourly returns at 4:00pm, 5:00pm and 6:00pm).  However there 
was a 2:30pm bus for Butterworth (just a short ferry hop across from Penang), so I decided 
to take that one back.  After saying goodbye and thanking Thomas, I boarded the large air-
conditioned bus (RM5/US$1.32), noticing everyone else on board (except for two young 
Chinese teenagers) was Malay.
	Relaxing and looking out the window at the passing countryside, I thought a bit 
about the last few days... because of the recent Chinese New Years, signs and decorations 
were still up in most cities wishing people a Happy New Years in romanized Chinese, similar 
to the signs wishing people a happy Hari Raya back in December.  Malaysia tries to practice 
cultural diversity, but with the government's policies favoring Malays and many ethnic 
Malays resenting their fellow Chinese and Indian countrymen, one can sense the tension 
beneath the surface.  Thinking back to my visit to Mauritius last year (which also has a 
population split between Chinese, Indian, and "locals"), I realized how different the countries 
were even with a similar population split: the lifestyle on Mauritius is friendly and laid back, 
but it's push-and-shove in Malaysia, with a cold shoulder from most Malays (something one 
might be tempted to attribute to Muslim culture were it not for the fact that I never felt this 
way in any other Muslim country, including nearby Indonesia).  Thinking back, I couldn't 
remember one time where a local Malay even gave a hint of a smile, even when it was their 
job to greet and help out tourists.  After a while, if I'd need to ask for directions I'd try to find 
an Indian or Chinese local to ask, because as much as I hate to stereotype, I'd usually be 
brushed off or given a curt response by a Malay, but a Chinese or Indian Malaysian would 
always take the time to help.
	With the bus trip cool, comfortable and relaxing, I soon began to feel better.  Arriving 
into Butterworth, the town didn't look too interesting, so I followed the crowd of people to 
the nearby ferry terminal and caught the ferry back to Penang (RM0.60 in this direction).  As 
I sat down in front, a Malay guy next to me began coughing violently, so I moved next to a 
young Chinese couple.  Taking out my Lonely Planet, I asked them if it was possible to catch 
a bus to the airport (as I didn't want to deal with Penang taxis again)... extremely friendly, 
they said "yes, from Komtar" — and as they were going to Komtar themselves, told me just 
to come with them.
	As an obvious tourist, I was yelled at by every waiting taxi driver at the ferry terminal, 
and though I decided to remain silent, thought back to a useful Malay expression Thomas 
had taught me: "Tak Mau" (the equivalent of "bug off" or "leave me alone").  Following the 
couple, I soon boarded a small minibus by the ferry terminal to Komtar (RM0.80/US21c — it 
actually wouldn't have been that far of a walk from the terminal, but with the hot day and 
heavy backpack, I decided to stay with the couple... they had been nice enough to help me 
	At the Komtar Bus Station, it can be a bit confusing figuring out which bus goes 
where, for while each lane has a map showing a route, there's no centralized sign — and the 
airport isn't prominently marked on the maps.  Asking a station employee which bus to 
catch for the airport, he couldn't answer in English, so instead wrote the answer down on a 
piece of paper: Bus #83 or Bus #66 (Bus #83 will take you right to the airport, while Bus 
#66 will stop about 4-5 minutes walk away from the terminal).  Waiting for what seemed like 
forever, I watched as bus after bus of the same number came into the crowded station, 
hogging the lanes and staying still until they each picked up enough passengers — but none 
of these went to the airport (I asked a few drivers just to be sure, but they indeed verified 
that I'd need Bus #66 or #83).  So much time had passed and it was now so late (almost 
5:00pm) that I actually started walking towards a taxi when I finally saw a Bus #66 come by 
(turning into a different lane, as the correct lane was still full with other minibuses).  
Running to meet it (as did others), the driver said he only stopped outside the airport — but 
I still boarded it, for it could have been another hour before a Bus #83 came by.  With 
standing room only, I left my backpack at the front and found a spot under a weak air-con 
vent (though with the windows open it didn't do much good).  As with the ferry, there were 
plenty of non-smoking signs, but they still didn't prevent someone from lighting up on the 
packed bus.  This big yellow bus was different than the usual Transit Link buses... here, the 
fare varied depending on the distance travelled, and instead of dropping coins into a box 
near the driver, there was a fare collector walking through the packed aisle to collect money.  
The fare from Komtar to just outside the airport was only RM1.70/US45c (a far cry from 
what a taxi would charge) and took 35 minutes (leaving Komtar at 4:54pm and arriving 
outside the airport at 5:30pm).  Though the driver assured me he'd let me know when we 
arrived at the correct stop, with other recent drivers forgetting to do so, I constantly looked 
out the window for the airport — but just as I saw it off in the distance, the bus stopped and 
the driver motioned for me to get off (pointing out the direction I had to go).  Walking a brisk 
4-5 minutes, I soon found myself at the Penang Airport just at the suggested "90 minutes 
before" check-in time.
	At the airport I changed a little ringgit into Singapore dollars at a decent rate 
(RM100=S$44)  before going to the Malaysian Airlines check-in counter.  There was actually 
an earlier flight in the process of boarding, but I was told it had already closed (and I hadn't 
even bought my ticket yet).  Though I could have used Delta miles (by taking Sinagpore) 
more than Northwest (Malaysian), I wanted the earlier flight... so I bought my ticket on 
Malaysian (RM295/US$77.63: RM255 + RM40 Penang Airport tax), with both Malaysian and 
Singapore being the same price.  Checking in next, I was given seat 5F (assigned this 
afternoon while calling from Thomas' place), and was told it'd be OK to take my backpack on 
board as a carry-on (as it turns into a large duffel bag).
	With a bit of time to spare I put my bag through security — but security at the 
airport was a joke: there's an X-ray machine in the center of the check-in room where an 
employee merely puts a piece of tape on your bag's zipper to show that it's been cleared.  
However it's quite easy for anyone to just open it up and slip something else inside (I opened 
it afterwards to take out a pen!) — but once your bag has a piece of tape anywhere on it, no 
one looks closely as you walk through the gates (located away from X-ray/security).
	Looking around the small airport lobby for a few minutes, I first called home to check 
messages from a rare working Telekom card phone before using my Time Kontact card to 
call the hotel in Singapore I wanted to stay at: the Mayfair Hotel.  Hotel rates in Singapore 
are no bargain, and are much more expensive than in neighboring Malaysia.  However the 
Mayfair Hotel was one of the cheapest, and for S$52.50/US$30.52 per night (S$50 + 5% 
tax), you're given a plain-but-nice room with air-con and private bath located in an older 
building not too far from the Raffles Hotel.  Making a reservation for this evening, I let the 
hotel know I'd be arriving a bit late, and asked them to hold the room.
	After calling the hotel I sat down at a table to start writing in the journal until I heard 
the announcement for people on my flight to head for the boarding area.  Passing through 
sections where plenty of construction was going on, I reached the gate only to see that I'd 
still have quite a long wait, as the plane we were to depart on had just arrived, and 
passengers were just starting to come off.  Being quite hungry after having nothing but 
liquids and popsicles all day, I asked one of the two ladies at a snack kiosk how much a 
small piece of sponge cake was — and was told RM2.20/US58c (a rip-off for Malaysia).  
Giving the other lady RM2.20, this second lady then said it was RM2.30 — and as the two 
conferred on what the proper price should be, the second finally said RM2.20 would be OK... 
so I gave her RM2.27, getting rid of all my change except for a RM0.50 piece.
	The plane itself was quite comfortable (it should be at 3 times the price of the KL -> 
Penang flight, even though it's only 1hr 10mins long), and sitting next to me was a young 
Singapore-Chinese couple with a baby (who thankfully was quiet and well-behaved).  
Though the flight was supposed to be non-smoking, once again Malaysians don't seem to 
care, and I smelled cigarette smoke three separate times during the flight.  Taking out my 
journal, I wrote in it continously, stopping only for takeoff and meal service (spicy chicken & 
rice... I just had a little).
	Landing at Changi Airport in Singapore, I was immeidately impressed at how 
complete and visitor-friendly it is — if I hadn't been so tired and eager to get to the hotel, I'd 
have spent some time looking around the various shops and areas of the airport.  Signs 
everywhere ask "Do You Need Help?", with arrows indicating the direction to the closest 
visitor information counter, and one marked difference between Changi and KLIA is the 
friendly, helpful attitude of the tourist information staff — quite different than the cold-
shoulder attitude one receives at KLIA (not to mention all the racks filled with maps and 
brochures... meaning a visitor can just browse and take what he/she needs rather than 
having to obtain them from an information desk).
	Customs at Changi was almost too easy, and looking around I realized this was one 
of the nicest, most practical airports I had ever been in (I especially liked the aquarium).  Not 
wanting to spend time at an airport tonight though, I went first to an ATM to withdraw some 
S$ before buying some SingTel telephone cards from the money changers (purchasing both 
the insertable and scratch-off types).
	If you don't want to bother with public transportation or the cost of a private taxi, 
there's an airport shuttle van which will drop you off at the various hotels in town for 
S$7/US$4.07.  Buying a ticket at the counter for the 8:55pm shuttle, I thought I still had 
some time, and asked a guard if I could re-enter the secure area to stop at the Burger King 
(he refused, saying another Burger King was just outside).  Before I had time to check it out 
though, my van number was being called, and it was time to follow the Chinese driver to the 
waiting Mercedes minivan (which left ahead of schedule, at 8:50pm).  With Chinese pop 
tunes playing softly on the radio, the driver answered an incoming cel call for a minute (his 
phone ringing to the theme from "Mission Impossible") as we drove quietly through the night 
into downtown.
	Being dropped off at the Mayfair City Hotel (40-44 Armenian Street), there was a 
family of tourists banging on the locked door outside, saying they had been there for a few 
minutes, but no one had come to open up the door.  With a public phone right outside on 
the street, I called the hotel's number — and a minute later an old Chinese man came down 
to open the door.  This was the only drawback with an otherwise fine, inexpensive hotel: 
though you're free to come and go as you please, the front door is kept locked in the 
evenings, and while the old Chinese man usually sleeps by the door (ready to open it when 
someone knocks), he'll occasionally be off in the bathroom or somewhere else in the building 
(later the old Chinese man told me "don't worry, I sleep down here... just pound on the 
door").  Welcoming me to the hotel, the old man offered me a glass of juice and took my 
passport, saying "pay tomorrow" before taking me up to the 2F to show me room 204: the 
nice-sized room was indeed plain, but had two twin beds (one better than the other), a 
cabinet to hang clothes in, a chair and table, a strong air-con unit on the wall, and a private 
bathroom with shower (the wall in the bathroom isn't quite sealed all the way at the edge, 
and while no one can see anything compromising through it, if people in the room next door 
are talking in their bathroom or taking a shower, you can hear the noise in your room — 
though closing the bathroom door helps).
	After setting my bags down I decided to go out for a quick bite to eat, as I was now 
beginning to feel hungry for the first time since last night.  The old guy downstairs said the 
food stand next door wasn't very good and instead recommended one a few blocks away... 
but I actually wound up going the other direction in hopes of finding a 7-11.  A teenager I 
asked on the street pointed out the direction of a 7-11, and I soon found myself at the 
corner of Northbridge and Coleman streets.  Here, I noticed a lot of kids just hanging out, 
and it seemed that this was the place where kids come at night to let off steam in a soceity 
where rebellion is frowned upon by the state.
	Walking into a few of the shops here, I immediately noticed the different atmosphere 
of Singapore: unlike most of Asia, when you walk into a store in Singapore, you'll never be 
hassled or bothered until you approach someone to ask a question (a nice change of pace, 
especially for less-travelled tourists who will invariably avoid looking in stores or stalls 
where there's a heavy sales pitch).  In Singapore you can walk into a store or stall and take 
the time to decide without being hassled or bothered (about the only exception to this are 
the Indian tailors along Orchard Road who tout a bit as you walk by... other than that 
though, shopping in even the smallest shops is a hassle-free experience).  The stores in this 
area (Northbridge and Coleman) have good prices on various items, selling three souvenir T-
shirts for S$10/US$5.81, watches for S$10/US$5.88, and long drawstring slacks for 
	Finding the 7-11, I first checked out the food court below it: in Sinagpore, the food 
courts are clean and tidy, with large signs displaying pictures and prices in a uniform 
standard (more like a food court in an American shopping mall than in Asia) — and at this 
particular one there were 20 restaurants, with plenty of chairs and clean tables in the center 
(looked after by employees constantly cleaning them up).  Though I really wanted some 
chicken soup, the place serving it was out... so instead I ordered a crock-pot of chicken-rice 
(S$3.30/US$1.92), but the rice was a bit burnt for my taste.  In the end, I went to the 
Burger King next door (as much as I hate do visit such places, with the way my stomach 
had been, the plain chicken sandwich with cheese [S$4.00/US$2.33] really hit the spot).  
Everyone in Singapore speaks English, but that didn't stop Burger King from being Burger 
King: when I asked for a chicken sandwich plain with cheese, it instead arrived without 
cheese, but with all the toppings (at least they gladly fixed it).
	On the way back I stopped at the 7-11 to pick up a few cans of soda water and some 
gummy candy... and back in the room (where I had left the air-con on), it was now nice and 
comfortable.  Even though I was pretty tired with the lack of sleep last night, I still finished 
my journal (though it didn't take as long tonight, as much of it had been written on the 
	Misc. observations: arriving into Singapore tonight the streets were wet (it obviously 
must have rained earlier, though the weather was clear now)... there are instructions on just 
about everything you see, including a complete list of "DOs and DON'Ts" on escalators... like 
Hong Kong and London, Singapore has its share of double-decker buses... while food isn't 
expensive in Singapore, it's more than in Malaysia (for instance, a can of 100 Plus soda 
would be US32c-US37c in Malaysia, but US76c in Singapore).

Feb. 5: Singapore
	Waking up in a cool, air-conditioned room at 7:20am, I had my first good night's 
sleep in a while.  Leaving right away (the old Chinese man said to pay him later — though I 
asked for my passport back), I headed to nearby Ft. Canning Park — a nice green area with 
an old fort, excavation area, and plenty of walking trails.  A few locals were out exercising 
this morning, and signs everywhere explained the historical significance of the various 
sections.  After meandering around for half an hour, I walked down the back side and 
noticed a sign by a traffic signal reading "Should traffic signal become faulty, please call 
[number]... quote signal #282."  Singapore is full of such helpful signs, including 
intersections with "walk" signals indicating the seconds-to-go and traffic condition boards 
showing the estimated time to certain areas.
	From the other side of the park I soon found myself in the Colonial District of town — 
an area filled with old, British-style buildings which now house everything from Parliament 
to the Supreme Court.  It's an interesting area to walk around, and plenty of public works 
employees were out sweeping the sidewalks and streets, helping to keep Singapore clean.  
There's almost no litter anywhere out in public, and only once did I notice grafitti (in an 
underpass under Orchard Road).
	Arriving at the Singapore River, I strolled along the shore for a few minutes to take a 
picture of the famous Merlion statue (though no water was coming from its mouth), and 
though the morning was cloudy and overcast, it was still warm and humid.  The area was 
full of tour groups, and though the cafes and shops by the water were closed and quiet now, 
they'd be busy by the evening.  Continuing my walk, I found a motorized underground 
passageway for the Fullerton Hotel before heading on over to Chinatown via the Central 
Business District.
	Walking through the CBD, I noticed that even here among the city's tallest 
skyscrapers, there were green areas set aside where people could relax and have a cup of 
coffee.  Asking a building security guard for directions to Chinatown, he went out of his way 
to be clear and helpful.  Listening to the sounds around me, while a few people on the street 
spoke Chinese or an Indian dialect amongst themselves, most spoke English to each other 
— and I never once encountered a Singaporean who didn't speak fluent English.
	Using the Chinatown walking course suggested in the Lonely Planet, I spent some 
time exploring the area, but perhaps because a majority of the country's population is 
Chinese, the "Chinatown" is pretty disappointing — clean and sanitized, it feels more like a 
Universal Studios Chinatown than the real thing (on the other hand, Sinagpore's Little India 
still feels authentic, and is one of the best spots to visit).  However in Chinatown, the streets 
really lack character... the few original buildings still around have been painted and made 
into fancy offices or shops, and they stand alongside new buildings that all look alike.  Here 
there are no chickens hanging in display cases or stalls selling knockoff watches... no hustle 
and bustle or people out doing business — as dirty and noisy as most Chinatowns are, they 
at least have life in them, but that was all missing here.
	While looking in at the Thian Hock Keng Temple, I saw a local elementary school 
visiting it on a field trip — and it was interesting to note that while a majority of the kids 
were Chinese, the teacher was Indian (wearing a turbin), lecturing the kids in English on the 
history of the Chinese temple.  Also nearby in the heart of Chinatown is Singapore's oldest 
Hindu temple: the Sri Mariamman Temple (S$3/US$1.74 for a camera permit)... quite a 
beautiful temple and well worth a visit, the ceilings are covered with paintings of various 
deities (for some reason the Indian temples in Singapore were much more impressive than 
the Chinese ones).  The only business I stopped at in Chinatown was a stationary store (to 
pick up a small notepad), and it was no different than if it had been located in the CBD.
	Walking up Ann Siang Hill (a small hill located next to Chinatown), the area at the 
top is much the same as Chinatown below, with newly-painted, restored buildings all 
looking alike (including one housing DoubleClick Asia).  After a few minutes I walked down 
and left Chinatown, stopping for a bao (S0.90/US52c) at an outside food court on Amoy 
Street occupying the 2F of what looked like a concrete parking structure.  Using a nearby 
phone to try to call home and check my bank balance (with a scratch-off telephone card), it 
wouldn't work — as when using a scratch-off card, the "#" key acts as the hangup/new-call 
button (though if an insertable card is used, the "#" key will work properly).
	Entering the Kreta Ayer area, I noticed it was one of the few places with homeless 
people lying out on the benches, and was surprised that they hadn't yet been removed... 
looking up, every flat in the large apartment block next to me had a "flagpole" rod sticking 
out, onto which people would hang their laundry out to dry... and at the base of the building 
a Singapore Post mailman was delivering mail on a bicycle.  In the area was a "3 for S$10" 
store selling various junky items (fake crystal swans, thimbles, etc.) for 3-for-S$10 or 6-for-
S$10 (I later noticed many of the same items for sale on Orchard Road [the expensive 
shopping district in Singapore] at a much higher price).
	Noticing a bunch of tour buses parked nearby, I decided to walk over and see what 
was going on... but it turned out just to be a small shopping area where the buses stop in 
droves.  The merchants had their wares out on the sidewalk (clothes, souvenirs, etc.), but 
there were no bargains to be found, as all the tour groups stop here.
	I next walked into the People's Park Centre (a large indoor shopping complex) and 
was surprised to see how expensive cameras and electronics were in Singapore.  While good 
deals on textiles can still be found in the country, it seems that Singapore no longer lives up 
to its reputation as a place to buy cheap electronics or photographic gear, as such items 
(even after bargaining) are either more expensive than home, or the exact same price.  To be 
fair, I'm looking at it from an American's point of view... some non-American tourists I spoke 
with (including a Scotish family looking at the same Philips shaver I was) said the prices 
were still cheaper than in the UK — but for an American, the only reason to buy an 
electronic or camera item in Singapore is if it's a model not available at home (otherwise 
you'll just pay more for it).  If you do wish to buy such goods in Singapore however, the 
absolute best place to go is Mustafa Centre in Little India.  Whereas most electronics shops 
in Singapore either don't mark their prices or mark ridiculously high ones (from which you 
have to bargain down), Mustafa has each item clearly marked with a firm price that is 
always lower than the lowest bargaining price I was ever able to get in other shops.  For 
instance, disappointed that I hadn't bought that Philips shaver at the Johannesburg airport, 
I looked for Philips shavers every chance I had in Singapore — and while one particular 
model was S$180-S$190/US$104-US$110 at all other shops (with S$160/US$93 being the 
lowest price I could bargain down to after a lot of hassle), Mustafa had the same model for 
instant purchase at S$133/US$77.32 — quite a difference, though as it's the same price it 
sells for at home when on sale, I decided not to buy it.
	Continuing my walk, I headed back to the Raffles Hotel to walk inside its famous 
Long Bar.  Though the Singapore Slings here aren't reputed to be very good anymore, I was 
more interested in the bar's atmosphere: the drinks were indeed expensive, but the place 
has plenty of ambiance, with tourists sitting at tables under ceiling fans telling stories of 
their adventures in Singapore, taking pictures of themselves.  At first I was going to order a 
Coke just to order something here, but soon decided to leave, not wanting to waste the time 
or money (I stopped to get a slurpee later — S$1.40/US81c for a large).  Walking out to have 
a look at the hotel grounds, I saw plenty of expensive boutiques (many with signs posted in 
Japanese)... but when I tried to walk into the lobby, I was turned away by a guard: the hotel 
has a dress code, and I guess shorts and sandals weren't allowed (though a guest of the 
hotel was wearing shorts... was it really the sandals, or the fact that I wasn't a guest?)
	Walking up Waterloo Street, I passed a small but nice Jewish Synagogue before 
coming to to the Sri Krishnon Hindu temple... outside the Hindu temple were incense sticks 
with a sign posted for the benefit of their Chinese devotees indicating they were free.  Next 
door at the Kwan Im (Goddess of Mercy) Temple, lots of Chinese were praying both outside 
and inside — and the outside grounds were filled with hawkers selling flowers, incense, 
paper money, and other items for use in the temple, even though a "NO HAWKERS" sign was 
	Stopping at various stalls and shops along the way, I noticed that most of the VCDs 
in Singapore were legitimate copies (with many carrying the "Board of Censors Singapore" 
seal).  Though there were a few junky titles for S$1.90/US$1.10, most VCDs ranged from 
S$9.90-S$29.90/US$5.76-US$17.38, with the pricey S$29.90 ones having stickers stating 
"stop video piracy" (though I suspect most Singaporeans have plenty of bootleg VCDs just as 
their Malaysian counterparts do).
	Nearby on Bugis Street (a small, unimportant covered shopping area consisting of a 
few aisles), I found some boogleg audio CDs, knockoff copy watches, pirate gameboy games 
("41-in-1"), as well as a cheap tiny radio for sale with the name "MOTARLOA" (instead of 
"Motorola").  Here I also saw the first of many stalls selling DVDs... many were marked 
"Region 3" (for Singapore), though most shops in Singapore also sell "Region 1" DVDs 
imported from Canada where the dollar is weaker (with the notice "Not to be sold outsdie 
Canada" printed on the back).  With S$55/US$31.98 the typical price for a Region 1 DVD, 
they were more expensive than at home, and I didn't see any bootleg DVDs for sale.
	Walking around, one thing strange I noticed was that quite a few of the shops and 
stalls seemed to be closed... I'm not sure if it was because some might keep only late hours 
or because Chinese New Years had just finished and some owners might still be on 
holiday... but about 20% of the shops seemed to be shuttered during what should have been 
a normal business day.
	Next I decided to walk to Sim Lim, the large indoor shopping center famous for 
electronics and computer supplies.  Here the lower floors house the electronics shops while 
the upper floors have the computers and computer accessories.  Perhaps because this is a 
famous place for people to visit, the electronics stores here offered the worst prices in town 
(again, if you're really interested in buying electronics or camera gear in Singapore, head 
straight for Mustafa Centre in Little India and forget Sim Lim and the other shopping areas).  
Though I didn't spend too much time up on the computer floors, I did notice that they were 
filled with locals browsing and buying, whereas the electronics shops on the lower levels 
were filled almost exclusively with tourists.  Stopping in at a few computer accessories 
shops, I tried to buy the replacement rubber covers for Toshiba laptop pointing sticks — but 
no one seemed to sell them.  Finally one shop I inquired at said their other office in town 
had them — and after calling to verify, quoted an expensive S$15/US$8.72 for a set of two (I 
	After spending about an hour inside Sim Lim I decided to walk over to Little India — 
and I immediately liked the area.  While parts of Little India were as clean and tidy as the 
rest of Singapore, other parts were a bit less sanitized... and the district is interesting to 
explore.  There are plenty of shops selling everything from Indian clothing to toys, and in 
general most stores here have better prices than anywhere else in town (warm sodas were 
only S$0.50/US29c from the sidewalk shops).  While exploring the area it suddenly began to 
rain, though I didn't mind, as there were plenty of stores to browse through and many were 
worth spending some time in.  Serangoon Road has plenty of bargain stores, including one 
which sold food, plastics, and other miscellaneous items (many imported from Indonesia) for 
extremely good prices.
	A bit further up Serangoon Road and you come to Mustafa Centre, which now 
occupies their old location as well as the Serangoon Plaza next door (the store basically 
takes up an entire corner).  Mustafa is not only the best place to buy electronic and camera 
equipment in Singapore, it sells just about everything else on its various floors, including 
watches, toys, stationary, suitcases, clothing, and all types of food — and the price is always 
clearly displayed on every item in the store.  Some examples: Philips high-end shavers: 
S$133/US$77.32... the mini Sony ICF-22 shortwave radio: S$108/US$62.79... Fuji Superia 
200/36 print film: S$3.50/US$2.04... and a nice Casio analog watch: S$13/US$7.56 (the 
store has tons of watches for sale, with brands ranging from Casio and Q+Q to Seiko, Citizen 
and Rado).  In the end I didn't buy anything at Mustafa — but had I decided to buy 
something in the country, it would definitely have been from them.  Their prices on 
everything from cameras to portable VCD walkmans were considerably lower than anyplace 
else in Singapore, and if you aren't able to visit Malaysia or some of the cheaper countries in 
the region, head straight for Mustafa (I was actually tempted to buy that S$13 Casio watch, 
but decided not to... and a few days later found it for sale at the exact same equivalent price 
in a Chinese watch shop in Melaka, Malaysia).  Besides having the lowest prices in 
Singapore, Mustafa also has a huge selection: it was the only place in either Malaysia or 
Singapore where I saw WorldSpace satellite radio receivers for sale (the same Hitachi and 
Sanyo units I had seen at the Johannesburg airport) — and when I asked for some 
information on the radios, the friendly salesman handed me some promotional literature for 
both a Hitachi and Panasonic set (it was from this literature that I found out WorldSpace's 
satellite coverage plans would not include North America).
	With the rain now stopped, I continued walking through the city... in the Nemura 
Hotel area at around 5:30pm I was surprised to see transvestite prostitutes soliciting, and a 
bit later on Bencoolen Road, I stopped for the first real food (other than a bao) I'd had all 
day: some curry chicken noodle soup in a small ground-floor Chinese restaurant of an office 
tower (though the broth was excellent, there wasn't enough of it, with too much chicken-on-
the-bone).  The soup and a Coke Light came to S$5.20/US$3.02 — not bad considering the 
part of town I was in (a business area).
	Having walked the whole day, I decided to keep going, as I still wanted to see Orchard 
Road (figuring it'd be cooler in the evening, and the shops would still be open).  There was a 
lot of construction going on for the new MRT line between the YMCA and Plaza Singapura — 
it was a major hassle to get around, but soon I was walking down Singapore's most 
exclusive (and expensive) shopping street.  It was now 6:30pm, and I spent the next few 
hours walking around the area, looking in at some of the various shops and malls along the 
way.  This part of town could easily pass for a street in Tokyo's Shinjuku or Shibuya wards, 
with its huge color TV monitors, Japanese department stores, fashionable boutiques, and 
American-style shopping malls.  Unless you like such shopping (I don't) there's not too 
much to the area, but if curious, it's probably worth an hour or two of your time.  Walking 
into one of the 5-6 story shopping malls (all lined up one after the other), I realized someone 
could easily spend the entire day here, though I suppose the question would be "why?"  
Outside one mall was a taxi queue area with a push-button board to help you find others 
needing to go to the same area as you (so you can share a taxi and split the fare — not a bad 
idea).  With all the walking I had done, I stopped for a slurpee at 7-11 and a chicken 
sandwich at Burger King, noting one of the few cheap stores of the area (the nearby S$1.99 
Store, filled with cheap S$1.99/US$1.16 Japanese and Chinese items).  Orchard Road also 
has many small Indian tailor shops, and these shops are about the only ones in Singapore 
where the storekeepers will do a bit of hawking as you walk by, trying to persuade you to 
step into their shop for a tailor-made suit.
	As it was now dark, I walked into the Hyatt Hotel in hopes of a nice view... but taking 
the elevator up to the 13F, saw only a partial view of the street below.  Continuing to stroll 
down Orchard Road, I also walked down a few side streets (including Scotts Road — the Far 
East Plaza is nothing special), finally reaching the end of Orchard Road (where it curves and 
becomes Tanglin Road) before turning around to walk back on the other side.
	All over town today I noticed bus stops plastered with ads touting KFC's S$0.50 
chocolate soft-serve cones — but every KFC I asked at (including here on Orchard Road) 
said "oh, it's only available at selected KFCs," — and instead offered Walls pre-made ice-
cream for about 8 times the price.  I didn't find any Shige Kicks candy for sale at Isetan, but 
on the way back, did buy some at Takashimaya.  There's also a Kinokuniya bookstore in the 
Takashimaya building, so I went in for a look: large and well-stocked, it sold both Japanese 
and Chinese versions of manga.
	As it was now past 9:00pm and many of the stores were closing (though the night 
spots would remain open), I decided to head back to the hotel, as I would need to leave early 
for the ferry to Bintan Island, Indonesia tomorrow.  After walking back most of the way, I 
realized I hadn't yet taken the MRT in Singapore — so I decided to try it for just a short 
distance (it was on this walk home that I noticed the only grafitti I saw in Singapore, in a 
temporary pedestrian walkway in a construction area).
	Walking into the Dhoby Ghant Station, the automated ticket machines were easy to 
figure out, and I wound up buying 3 S$0.80/US47c tickets (keeping 2 as souvenirs, as your 
ticket is eaten/recycled once used).  For those planning on using the MRT a lot, there's an 
all-day pass offered — but as I prefer walking, I never saw the need to buy one myself (the 
special multi-trip tourist ticket costs S$7).  The MRT is quite nice and extremely clean (with 
air-conditioning and hard seats), and at most underground station stops (unlike the 
elevated outside ones) the tracks are sealed off behind glass doors which remain shut until a 
train arrives (both for safety and to cut down on noise — with the tracks sealed off, the 
approaching train almost can't be heard).  The MRT doesn't operate 24 hours though, and 
shuts down at midnight.
	Returning back to the hotel after stopping at a mini-mart for some cans of soda 
water, I paid for two nights worth of accomodation and told the old Chinese man that I'd 
probably be spending two more nights — but would let him know for sure by tomorrow 
morning (I would take the ferry to Indonesia tomorrow, but wasn't sure if I'd spend the night 
there or not).  Going upstairs to write in my journal, I noticed the space of about 2 inches at 
the edge of the wall connecting my bathroom to the room next door (meaning any smoke, 
talking, or noise would come right in).
	While picking up messages earlier in the day, I received a work call for next week... 
having to wait until midnight though (when it would be 8:00am in California), I finally went 
to use the phone outside the hotel door to confirm the job (having to wake up the old 
Chinese guy — but he sleeps by the door, and returning guests wake him up all the time).
	Misc. info: addresses of shops in the large shopping centers show their exact location 
in the address, with the first digit indicating the floor and the second digit its location on 
that floor (for example, "#05-18" would indicate Shop 18 on the 5th floor)... the MRT stations 
have not only names but station numbers (E6, E7, E8, etc.) to identify them... about the 
only thing lacking at these stations are coin-changers: the automated ticket machines are 
only automatic if you happen to have coins on you — if you have only bills, you must go to 
the window and ask for change in order to use the machine (you can't buy tickets at the 
window; all they will do is give you change for the machine)... you can purchase a fare card 
for use on the MRT and bus, and if you use the pre-paid card, you're given a small discount 
on the fare.

Feb. 6: Pulau Bintan (Indonesia)
	Though my alarm was set for 7:00am, I woke up before it went off, and lied in bed 
until 6:40am.  Getting up to look over some information on Bintan Island, I had to decide 
whether to just visit the main city of Tanjung Pinang and return to Singapore that evening, 
or try to stay the night at Trikora Beach.  The more I thought about it though, the more I 
realized I had seen enough beaches from Thailand to Zanzibar lately, and with the limited 
amount of time, I had, I'd almost certainly return back to Singapore unless something really 
interesting turned up.  To be on the safe side I took along a pair of swim trunks and some 
dental floss, but I was pretty sure by now that I'd return back in the evening.
	Walking downstairs, I told the the old man (as well as a younger Chinese guy now 
around) that I was going to Pulau Bintan for the day, and would probably return here in the 
evening — but if I didn't return that night, to still keep my room for two more days (he said 
no problem, just pay later).
	At the nearby City Centre MRT station I took the train to Tanah Merah (the stop 
closest to the ferry terminal).  Though most people this time of day were headed the other 
way (from the suburbs into town), it was still rush hour, and there were plenty of people on 
the MRT.  For part the trip the train goes outside, affording you some good views of 
suburban Singapore... many people tend to think Singapore is just the main downtown area 
where most tourists wind up, but it's not: most of the country is made up of suburban living 
areas filled with large colorful apartment blocks, small homes, schools, parks, and factories.
	At Tanah Merah station, I left the train to wait for Bus 35 outside (the bus for the 
ferry terminal).  Cloudy and looking as if rain might come (though still warm), I waited with 
dozens of locals at the bus stop, noticing how ordered and less pushy they were than their 
Malaysian neighbors.  Finally a double-decker #35 drove up, and I had my first chance to 
ride one of Singapore's buses: though the fare depends on the distance you wish to go, from 
the MRT station to the ferry terminal was S$0.80/US47c if you paid by cash — however like 
the MRT, the fare is slightly discounted if you use a fare card (in this case, S$0.70).  Each 
bus has a machine to insert a fare card into and obtain a receipt (if you pay the driver cash 
your receipt will also come from this machine), and it's a good idea to hang onto the receipt 
as proof that you've paid the fare.  As there's no change machine on the bus, I dropped my 
S$1 coin into the slot and walked up to the second level.
	At the ferry terminal, I noticed a few different ferry companies operating to Pulau 
Bintan... originally I thought the correct one to take was Bintan Resort Ferries, but it turns 
out this company only operates to an exclusive resort on the island, and not to the main 
town of Tanjung Pinang.  For those wishing to go somewhere other than the resort, the only 
two choices are the Penguin Fast Ferry and one other company.
	Walking up to the Penguin office, the friendly lady there informed me that the 
weekday round-trip rate was S$42/US$24.42 not including Indonesian departure tax 
(weekends are higher).  I bought the ticket, but then noticed that Bintan Resort Ferries 
would be leaving earlier (and had a cheaper fare).  Asking if I could have a refund, she 
cheerfully gave me one — but at the Bintan Resort window, I found they only stopped at the 
resort.  Looking over at the third company which offered service, I saw their first ferry didn't 
leave until 10:30am — so I walked back to the Penguin desk once more.  The lady there was 
still quite friendly, but as I was ready to re-buy my S$42 ticket, I noticed a flyer mentioning 
a package deal for S$50/US$29.07, which included a tour of the island, a visit to a local tea 
factory, and a stop at a neighboring island of your choice (Bintan has some smaller islands 
just off its coast).  Thinking about it for a few minutes, I wasn't sure what to do... the lady 
told me I'd be the only one on the package today (and it was only S$8/US$4.65 more than 
the fare itself) — but in the end I decided I'd rather just set my own pace and explore Bintan 
on my own.  Finally buying the ticket for S$42, I thanked her and walked over to 
	After clearing immigration and buying a snack it was time to board, and as the 
announcement was made, everyone calmly walked out to the ferry.  The Penguin ferries are 
modern and new, but passengers are only allowed indoors, not outside.  To keep people 
entertained there are TV monitors playing typically violent Hong Kong movies and a small 
snack bar which sets out sealed cups of spring water for free.  Because the ferry is operated 
by a Singaporean company rather than an Indonesian one, it's clean and safe, with a life 
vest under every seat.  Sitting by the window, the first thought in my head was "I'm on 
another boat... again..."
	Taking a ferry to Bintan is a good way to see Singapore's shipping business up close, 
for as we left the dock, we must have passed literally hundreds of container ships, all lined 
up and parked every which way while waiting to enter the Port of Singapore (with buoys to 
mark the lanes we came quite close to them in our tiny ferry boat).  There were so many 
cargo ships in the area that even after travelling for some time we still hadn't passed them 
all, and they're a testament to one of the world's busiest ports.  The ferry terminal is also 
quite close to Changi Airport, and there are always planes landing and taking off in the area 
(later that night while waiting for the bus I watched plane after plane come in for a landing).
	Indonesia is one hour behind Singapore, but while on the ferry, I made the mistake of 
setting my watch ahead by an hour instead — meaning my watch showed the time two 
hours later than it really was (earlier that morning from in front of the hotel, I called the 
Trikora Beach Resort at 7:00am Singapore time to ask how much a room was 
[S$60/US$34.88], thinking it was 8:00am Indonesian time, and not the actual 6:00am), but 
I wouldn't notice my mistake until later this afternoon.
	Arriving at Tanjung Pinang about 1hr 45mins later, the first sight one notices is all 
the garbage floating around in the water — plastic bags, cans, and anything else people 
decide to just throw into the sea.  After immigration, you're soon besieged by touts shouting 
"taxi!" and "where you go, sir?" (just ignore them).  Once you walk past the taxi area and out 
to the main street, you're greeted by yet another group of touts on motorbikes (with double-
length seats), all lined up wanting to take you somewhere, as the motorbike taxi is a popular 
form of transportation here — and though the seats are big enough for two adults, I once 
saw a family of 5 (3 young kids and 2 adults) riding on one.
	As Indonesia is one of the largest countries in the world — and I've seen only tiny 
Pulau Bintan — I have no idea if this is an accurate reflection of the rest of the country or 
not, but even with all the touts and hawkers, I came away with quite a good impression of 
the Indonesian people.  Perhaps it's because the Riau Islands are so close to Singapore, but 
just about everyone I encountered was extremely friendly towards an obvious tourist 
(especially for a Muslim country), and was night-and-day different from Malaysia.  Of course 
the hawkers here are as pushy and rude as anywhere else in the world, but once you leave 
them, I was surprised with how genuinely friendly everyone was.  Except in the ferry 
terminal area where the touts congregate, the "Hello, Mister!"s and other greetings were 
always sincere, whether they be said by people passing you on the street or children waving 
from a distance.  Even those who didn't speak English would smile and apologize for not 
understanding rather than brushing me off, and while Indonesia is a huge country requiring 
months of time to see properly, I'm still glad I visited tiny Pulau Bintan for the day.  All this 
of course doesn't apply near the ferry terminal, where dozens of touts will shout at you in 
hopes of getting your business... the taxi drivers (both normal and motobike) can be a 
hassle, with your only option just to ignore them.
	The first thing I did was find an ATM to withdraw some local currency.  This isn't a 
problem, as there are now 3 ATMs in town on the Plus and Cirrus networks relatively close 
to the ferry terminal: the first one you come to is a BII ATM, though the smallest bills it 
dispenses are Rs50,000 notes.  Just 30 seconds further down the road though, the Lippo 
Bank ATM dispenses Rs20,000 notes — but not seeing the Lippo ATM at first, I took out 
Rs100,000 (Rs50,000 x2) from the BII ATM at the rate of Rs5,400=S$1=US58c (or about 
US$1=Rs9,288).  The ATM rate is much better than exchanging money at the Singapore 
ferry terminal, but the only problem with the ATMs is that thet dispense large bills, and 
you'll need to change them into smaller notes.  Having only Rs50,000 notes, I walked into a 
nice Chinese-run hotel across the street to ask if they could give me change... the lady there 
kindly did, giving me Rs20,000, Rs10,000, and Rs5,000 notes (though I later found more of 
a need for Rs1,000 and Rs500 notes than anything else).
	Pulau Bintan has two smaller islands nearby: Penyenget and Senggarang.  Figuring 
I'd have time to look around Tanjung Pinang later, I first wanted to visit Penyenget, known 
for its old buildings and pleasant atmosphere.  There are a few different piers in Tanjung 
Pinang, and following the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide directions, I headed off towards 
the one from which the boats to Penyenget were supposed to depart.  As it turns out though, 
both books were incorrect about which pier to catch the public boats from... and at the pier 
the books mentioned, I was told it would cost Rs20,000/US$2.15 to charter my own boat.  
As I was looking for the public shuttle boats, the man there pointed back towards the main 
ferry terminal, hardly speaking any English.  Walking back, I stopped to ask a Chinese 
shopkeeper if she knew where the Penyenget boats departed from, and she also said that I 
needed to go back towards the ferry terminal as well.  Soon, an older man came up to ask if 
he could help... at first I thought he was a tout, but it turned out he just wanted to be 
helpful and practice his English a bit... he showed me to the proper jetty, and before 
arriving, told me the price should be Rs2,000/US22c.  Once there though, the man by the 
boats wanted Rs20,000... shaking my head, I politely said that it should be Rs2,000.  A 
moment later a local official who spoke some English happened to wander by, and asked if 
he could help.  Explaining to him that the proper price to Penyenget should be Rs2,000 not 
Rs20,000, he spoke to the man down by the water for a moment before clarifying things: 
Rs20,000 is the price for a private boat out to the island, but I can also take a shared boat 
for Rs2,000 — though I'd need to wait for others to come.  Saying that was OK with me, I 
thanked both the old man and the official, as the man by the water showed me the correct 
boat to wait in.  Though the difference wasn't a lot of money to me, I honestly wanted to take 
the public boat along with everyone else instead of hiring a private boat (otherwise I would 
have just opted for the package tour).  For those of you wishing to visit Penyenget, forget 
what the Lonely Planet and Rough Guides say: the shared boats to the island now leave 
from a tiny jetty just next to (almost part of) the main pier where you disembark from the 
Penguin Ferry... walking from immigration onto land, it'll be on your right-hand side by the 
shore (facing the pier, it'll be on your left).  There's no second pier, just a small area by the 
shore from which to board the boats.
	Though I was the first to wait for the shared boat to leave, it wasn't long before two 
locals boarded... and after waiting only 10-15 minutes, we left for Pulau Penyenget.  The 
shared boats are small wooden motorboats with a covering overhead and a few benches to 
sit on.  Most also have pull-down "blinds" made of rice-sack material to protect you from 
water splashing in (as the boats sink fairly deep), though they're often ragged and don't do 
much good (on the trip back, a local lady pulled down the shade to keep from getting 
splashed — but as it was full of holes, it didn't do much good... we couldn't do anything but 
move in a bit and smile at each other).
	The trip to Penyenget takes only 15 minutes, and from your first step onto the 
smaller island, you can feel its different atmosphere: nearby Bintan is noisy and bustling, 
but smaller Penyenget is quiet and peaceful, with a coastline filled with with rows of 
Indonesian-style homes on stilts.  On the pier, I noticed plenty of trash washing up against 
the shore, and took a picture of it: sadly, the environment is the last thing on most people's 
minds here.
	By now the day had turned hot, sunny, and humid, but I still enjoyed walking 
around quite a bit: almost the first building you come to (right by the pier) is a beautiful 
mosque (I'd later hear the mid-day prayers broadcast from here while walking around)... as I 
had on shorts, a guy sitting outside warned me not to enter with such clothing (I wasn't 
about to, only wanting to walk up the stairs a bit), so I motioned that I understood.  Near 
the mosque are plenty of old, arabic-style buildings built for the Sultans who once lived 
here, including the old palace of Rajah Ali and the tombs of Rajah Ali and Rajah Jaafar.  
Quiet and peaceful with no one about this morning, the buildings (surrounded by trees and 
lush vegetation) were quite interesting to explore.
	Continuing around the area I walked passed a school, as well as plenty of people just 
sitting out in the shade of their porch watching the day go by. Meandering down the small 
local pedestrian roads, the only "tout" I saw was a tri-shaw driver motioning he could give 
me a ride... but once I smiled and shook my head, he didn't ask again (I later saw him 
ferrying around some locals).  People here are extremely friendly, and everyone from 
teenagers to adults would say "hello" to me even if they spoke no other word of English.  
Most locals in fact don't speak English, and when someone walking by would greet me with 
"hello" and I'd answer them back, they'd often then continue in their own language, hoping 
I'd understand.  Still, there'd always be a smile and a friendly greeting rather than a frown, 
and it really gave me a good feeling about the island.  A bit later (while walking along some 
of the houses by the water), I took my camera out to take a picture of the coastline... to be 
respectful, I was careful not to get some locals sitting on their porches in the picture, but 
was surprised when a group of 2 guys (outside one house) and 2 ladies (outside an opposite 
house) laughed... one of the guys (just relaxing and trimming his moustache) waved hello, 
and motioned that I should take his picture!  Asking if it was OK, he nodded and brought 
his friend and two young children next to him as I captured the shot.  Thanking him, he and 
his kids waved goodbye as I continued on.
	Penyenget is somewhat rural, and it was nice to have the shade of the trees and 
vegetation on this hot day.  Walking past the various area homes, I noticed that while some 
were of the traditional Indonesian style (with a "hairpin" roof), most were western style — 
though many still had arabic motifs.  There were also plenty of homes built on stilts, and 
those by the shore were often built right over the water itself.  I don't know how wealthy or 
poor the island is compared with the rest of the country, but the homes here were all decent, 
with many being quite nice... some were tiled, others had large TV satellite dishes... but even 
those not so fancy were more than adequate.  Most homes had laundry drying out on a line, 
and there was always plenty of green — everything from palm trees to durians.  I don't know 
what Penyenget's main economy is (I suspect most people who live here have business on 
nearby Bintan), but it certainly is a quieter, nicer place to live than Bintan, and I can 
understand why those who live here want to.
	Wandering around, I came to a large traditional Indonesian building off by itself 
which looked as if it might be the local community center, though I heard rock music 
coming from inside.  At the shore, I saw how far out the waves were breaking, and knew I 
had made the right decision in not going out to Trikora Beach (for I had read that when the 
tide is low, it's pretty disappointing).  Interestingly, I noticed plenty of cats around town, but 
saw only one dog.
	Finally walking back to the pier, I sat down in the covered waiting area to relax in the 
breeze while waiting for a boat to take me back to Bintan.  At first, I asked someone how 
much a boat to Senggarang would be, but the answer was Rs20,000 (for a private boat, as 
no one else wanted to go there directly).  While waiting, I asked someone the time, noticing 
the guy's watch appeared a few hours slow — only it was my watch that was wrong (his was 
indeed correct as I later realized), and thinking it was 2 hours later than it really was, I 
decided to forget about Senggarang and head back for Bintan.  About 15 minutes later, six 
locals came by wanting a ride to Bintan — enough for the boat to leave.
	As with the boat ride from Bintan, the boat ride back was Rs2,000 — but knowing I 
could always use smaller bills, I decided to stuff a Rs5,000 note into my pants pocket to give 
the driver.  When it was time to pay, I reached into my pocket to give him the bill... but 
instead of giving me change, he then seemed to ask for more, indicating that I had only paid 
him Rs1,000.  Confused and beginning to think that he had switched bills on me, I took out 
a Rs1,000 bill and said "two, right?" — to which he motioned yes, and that he needed the 
other Rs1,000 bill.  As he didn't speak any English, someone nearby who spoke some came 
up and said "one more", pointing at my Rs1,000 bill.  Thinking I was being scammed, I 
politely but firmly replied that he owed me change, not the other way around.  This went on 
for about a minute, and though I knew I could have just walked away, I finally decided that 
to me, the difference (Rs4,000/US43c) wasn't a lot of money... so I feigned sudden 
understanding, apologized, paid the driver the other Rs1,000, and left feeling as if I had just 
been fleeced.  After the friendliness shown on Penyenget, this incident left me with a sour 
taste in my mouth for the day — but that evening while on the ferry back to Singapore, I 
found the Rs5,000 bill I had stuffed in my pocket, and realized I had indeed only given him a 
Rs1,000 note by mistake at first.  Thankful that I had decided to pay the additional Rs1,000 
instead of just walking away (as the last thing I wanted to do was stiff someone), I 
nonetheless felt bad inside for making the fuss, and wished I could once again apologize to 
the driver.
	Back on Pulau Bintan, I walked into the air-conditioned Wartel + Warnet office (the 
government telephone and internet division) not too far from the docks.  Here I bought a 
cold 100 Plus soda (Rs4,000/US43c) as well as a 140-unit telephone card for 
Rs38,000/US$4.09 (the Indonesian telephone cards are similar to the flimsy NTT cards in 
Japan, and though expensive, are quite nice.  Had I the money to spare, I would have 
bought two — though in the end I never even used the one I bought, as finding a card phone 
in the area was close to impossible).
	Walking down the main street from the ferry terminal, I noticed how busy and 
bustling everything was, especially after just having come from Penyenget.  The streets were 
clogged with a continuous stream of noisy, polluting motorbikes (this is no exaggeration — it 
was quite difficult to cross the main street by the ferry terminal with the non-stop stream of 
bikes), and lined with plenty of shops (mostly Chinese-owned) selling things of interest to 
locals (watches, kid's backpacks, wallets, Pokemon toys, etc.) rather than souvenir items.  
Plenty of stores also had clothes and fabric for sale, though I didn't really enter many shops 
for a closer look.
	While walking down a busy side-street, I noticed some food stalls selling pancakes 
and decided to try one... surprised that a tourist was stopping at her stand, an older lady 
seemed delighted to sell one to me (Rs1,000/US11c).  The thick pancake was folded over, 
and contained something which tasted like brown sugar, maple syrup and a bit of fruit in 
the center.  Though there were also stalls selling potato and banana chips, the pancake was 
so good that I stopped at another stand to buy seconds.  Above the streets, signs were hung 
wishing people a Happy Chinese New Year in romanized Chinese, and down below plenty of 
trash was strewn about (as well as people's spit — this isn't Singapore).  The sidewalks were 
uneven (with the areas in front of various stores often being different heights or sizes), but to 
me this was more interesting than uniform, sanitized Singapore.
	Finding the entrance to the Pasar Baru, I had a look inside the covered marketplace 
("pasar" means "market").  Much of the market is devoted to foodstuffs, and while I noticed 
some sacks with "Product of Thialand" printed on them, I'm sure many items (especially the 
fruits) were grown locally.  In one area a few vendors were selling chickens in cages, and 
when I asked a young guy if I could take a picture, he motioned to wait a minute while he 
opened a cage, took a rooster out, and proudly posed with it for the camera (much like the 
man trimming his moustache on Penyenget, people here are friendly towards tourists, and 
quite eager to have their pictures taken).
	After looking around inside the marketplace, I returned to the normal streets of the 
city.  I did run into one con artist here, trying the same con as someone had tried in Kenya 
the year before: seeing me walking down the street, a middle-aged Indonesian came up to 
say "Oh, hi!  Do you remember me?" (I just ignored him).
	Coming to a Chinese temple, I stopped inside for a rest.  While sitting down, an old 
man came up to say how much he liked America, and opened a book (akin to a Chinese 
Farmer's Almanac) to show me the two pages of Chinese/English translations it had inside.  
From from temple I walked down the back alleys behind the businesses of the main street, 
having a look at the hidden apartments where people lived.  Coming back out, I found a nice 
small hotel for anyone needing to stay in Tanjung Pinang for the night: the Chinese-run 
Lesmina Hotel (Tel: 62-771-315000) is S$26/US$15.12 for an air-conditioned room, and 
though I only saw the lobby (as I was just curious about their rates), the building seemed 
brand new and clean.
	Deciding to leave the downtown area, I walked in a different direction for a while (as if 
continuing straight from the pier rather than turning left).  Walking up a hill for the view, I 
passed a Prodestant church before coming to a Catholic school (both of which I was 
surprised to see here).  Further up, the homes became nicer... and walking down to the 
right, some passing kids greeted me hello (in a ravine behind one house I noticed piles of 
trash that had just been dumped).  A bit later, I suddenly heard a bunch of "Hello, Mister!"s 
coming from somewhere... turning to look, I saw 5-6 young kids running out of their Muslim 
school down below to wave hello to me (they had seen me from the window).  When I 
answered them and waved back, they continued to wave and smile as I passed.
	With the heat and humidity and all the walking, I started to feel a bit tired.  I knew 
there were two Penguin ferries returning to Singapore that afternoon: one at 2:10pm and 
one at 6:20pm...  so I looked at my watch to see what time it was.  Seeing the "4:30pm", I 
first thought it was almost time to start heading back — until I suddenly remembered that 
Indonesia wasn't an hour ahead of Singapore, but rather an hour behind!  It was only 
2:30pm, and I had just missed the 2:10pm ferry — meaning I'd have to wait another four 
hours to catch the next one back to Singapore.  Trying to figure out how I'd spend four more 
hours in town, I walked to the top of the hill, where I found the Hotel Sadaap and its 
informal outdoor restaurant on a nice grassy spot overlooking the water.  Ordering a cold 
water (Rs2,500/US27c, as the Cokes weren't cold) from the friendly young guys at the 
register, I sat down at an outdoor table to relax and enjoy the cool breeze (the two sealed 
water cups I had taken with me from the ferry were long since finished).  In the distance I 
heard the afternoon prayers start, and after a while I decided to head back down, wondering 
if perhaps another company might offer an earlier ferry.
	At the bottom of the hill, I walked along the coastal road before returning back to the 
ferry terminal area.  When I inquired about the ferry times back to Singapore at some ticket 
offices, none of the agents mentioned Penguin, but said "5:00pm" or "6:00pm" (I had the 
impression they weren't too sure themselves, though they had some timetables right there).  
One agent said a ferry was scheduled to depart in just a few minutes... though I didn't have 
a ticket, I hurridly walked onto the pier to see if it was too late — but indeed it was, as you 
need time to clear customs.  Walking back out again (to "taxi, sir!" yet again, even though I 
had just come in), I decided to just take Penguin back, as the Penguin 6:20pm wasn't that 
much later than the other 5:00pm or 6:00pm ferries.
	Seeing the nearby air-conditioned Wartel + Warnet office again, I decided it might not 
be such a bad idea to check my email... it would kill some time, be air-conditioned, and 
would save me from having to do it later.  Walking into the office, I noticed the different rates 
posted: for a half-hour the rate is Rs8,000/US86c for tourists, Rs6,000/US66c for locals, 
and Rs3,000/US32c for students (for an hour it's Rs15,000/US$1.62 for tourists, 
Rs10,000/US$1.08 for locals, and Rs6,000/US66c for students).  In an adjoining room was 
a main terminal connected to three sub-terminals, and as the young man turned everything 
on, he told me to sit down by one of the sub-terminals.  While the connection worked, the 
sub-terminals wouldn't allow "telnet" — so trying it out on the main terminal, I found out it 
worked perfectly there, and asked the guy if I could use the main terminal instead (no 
problem).  Though I had originally planned to stay on for only a half-hour, with the slow 
speed of the connection I wound up staying on for an hour (at Rs15,000/US$1.62).  While 
there, a local came in to use one of the other terminals... and seeing me type, came over to 
comment that he had never seen anyone type so fast, and asked what country I was from.
	When finished checking email, I decided to try to find some smaller bills to take home 
as souvenirs (something I always do when travelling).  Asking a money changer, he didn't 
have enough Rs1,000 notes to give me, but kindly traded my Rs10,000 bill for two Rs5,000 
ones.  Looking at the post office in front of me, I thought I'd try asking in there just as a 
longshot — but the employee actually gave me change in Rs1,000 and Rs500 notes without 
any purchase.
	Not sure how much the Indonesian departure tax was (as it's the one thing not 
included on the pre-paid Penguin ticket), I walked back to the ferry terminal again to find 
out (through the course of the day I must have walked this route more than a half-dozen 
times, passing the touts and taxi drivers each time).  On the pier, the official I asked didn't 
know how much it was either (as it was still too early for the proper officials to be there yet), 
so walking back out, I stopped at the Lippo Bank ATM to withdraw a bit more cash just to 
be on the safe side (and the bills I wouldn't use, I'd keep as souvenirs).
	After one last quick look around downtown, I walked back to the ferry terminal once 
more just as the Penguin official arrived.  Going through immigration early, I then had 
plenty of time to sit upstairs in the terminal and relax.  Looking through the duty-free shop, 
I noticed how inexpensive everything was (even at a duty-free shop), though there was 
honestly nothing I wanted to buy.  Many of the souvenirs weren't even Inodnesia-themed 
(models of cars or wooden American-Indian silhouettes), though there were a few items with 
an Indonesian look... one item I almost picked up was a puppet of a traditional Indonesian 
woman suspended inside a clear, round plastic case.  Though it cost very little, I knew it 
would get squashed in my backpack... so I decided just to buy a 100 Plus soda 
(Rs5,000/US54c) and some snacks instead (two small packs of locally-made oreo clones... 
the lemon-filled ones were great, but the strawberry-filled ones were disappointing).  Sitting 
at a table by the window I looked out at Pulau Bintan and enjoyed the incoming breeze.  A 
bit later I decided to look once more at the duty-free shop, but while doing so, the power 
suddenly went off in the building (I don't know if it was a power failure or an intentional 
blackout, for at that moment it was announced that the ferry was ready for boarding).  
Walking up to the ferry, the Indonesian immigration official shook everyone's hand 
goodbye... and inside, I sat by the window once again, even though it would soon be dark.
	The trip back seemed to take longer than the trip out (perhaps because it was at 
night), and about 30 minutes before arriving, rain began to fall quite hard (out the window I 
could also see plenty of defused lightning).  The same violent Hong Kong movie as this 
morning was being shown on the TV, and as I had left my journal in the hotel (so it wouldn't 
get lost), I didn't have much to do but count the minutes until we arrived back (noticing that 
my second pocket Pooh notebook was now almost finished).
	Back in Singapore, I waited for a bus for 15 long minutes in the light rain (watching 
plenty of planes come in for a landing at nearby Changi Airport)... and finally a double-
decker Bus #35 came by — but as with this morning, I didn't have exact change on me (just 
a S$1 coin).  Transferring back to the MRT at the Tanah Merah station, I noticed a sign in 
the train car mentioning some fines: S$1,000/US$581.40 for smoking, S$500/US$290.70 
for eating or drinking, and S$5,000/US$2,906.98 for taking flammable liquid or gas on 
	Back at the City Hall MRT station it was still raining... heading back to the hotel, I 
stopped at 7-11 to buy a cold 7-11 bao (ugh) and soda water, but I really felt like having 
soup.  Most places in the area were closed already (or only serving coffee), but just by 
chance I ran into a Japanese ramen restaurant: Kado-man.  I ordered both plain ramen 
(S$8/US$4.65) and takoyaki (breaded balls with octopus bits inside — also S$8/US$4.65 — 
though the amount of fish inside was negligible).  Though expensive and honestly only so-so, 
the ramen was nonetheless hot and exactly what I felt like having, so it really hit the spot.  
As I really hadn't eaten much all day, I was still hungry... so back by the hotel I decided to 
visit the 24hr outside food stalls the old Chinese guy had recommended.  At first I ordered a 
local dish, but then changed my mind to a chicken sandwich with cheese (S$2.50/US$1.45) 
to take back to the hotel.  Arriving back at 10:40pm, I wrote in the journal and took a 
shower — and didn't turn out the light until 1:25am.

Feb. 7: Singapore
	Waking up at 7:00am, I was out the door by 7:20am on my way to the Lavendar 
Street Car Park to buy a bus ticket to Melaka for tomorrow.  The Melaka buses depart from 
this car park (an outdoor parking area a few blocks from the Lavendar MRT station), and as 
it's best to buy your ticket a day in advance (S$11/US$6.40 for a 4.5hr express bus), I was 
there bright and early this morning.
	From Lavendar Street I decided to walk back through the Arab part of town... the 
Sultan Mosque looked quite impressive, though there was scaffolding surrounding the 
building as renovation work was occuring.  Walking past the many small storefronts of the 
area, I was disappointed to see that the small, freshly-painted sterile buidings looked no 
different than those found in Chinatown — and if not for the names on the shops, I wouldn't 
even know I was in the Arab quarter.  From their signs, the businesses here sold items such 
as textiles and halal foods, but there's nothing about the place that sets it apart from other 
areas of town.
	Stopping to buy a pork bao on Ocean Road, I soon saw a young Chinese man dressed 
in military fatigues using an ATM.  Asking him about the army, I found out that it's 
compulsary to serve for 2-2.5 years (depending on your level of education), followed by 
reserve duty for up to 45 days a year (what he was currently doing).
	As it was a pleasant morning I decided to walk next to Suntec Centre, a "self-
contained city" of 5 high-tech office skyscrapers which also houses Singapore's largest mall 
containing over 200 shops.  The complex is home to the International Convention and 
Exhibition Centre, as well as the world's largest fountain (in the Guiness Book of World 
Records for 1998) — but when I arrived there at 9:30am, everything was closed.  Though 
part of the shopping area resembles a typical upscale American mall, the one differnce is 
that the stores here open late — when I asked people headed for the office towers what time 
the shops would open, I was told 10:30am or 11:00am.  What gives?  In a country where 
business is so important, don't shop owners realize how much more business they would 
generate if they opened earlier?  This puzzle wasn't just with Suntec, it was something to be 
found all over Singapore: whether it be a department store, small boutique, or merely a little 
stall, very few businesses opened before 11:00am.
	Stopping to use one of the the phones in the lobby, I noticed they were all green 
StarHub phones (a SingTel competitor)... and immediately I hated the company, and refused 
to ever patronize them, as their phones would block calls even to 800 numbers unless you 
bought one of their cards.  I wanted to call the tourist information line to ask for suggestions 
on things to do, but was out of luck, as every telephone in the area was a StarHub phone.  I 
then notice a sign advertising one attraction I decided not to try: Snow City — for 
S$15/US$8.72, you're given an hour of playtime in "real" artifically-generated snow (the 
price includes a jacket, boots, and snow-tube rental).
	Deciding I'd return to Suntec later in the day (as there was no reason for me to be 
there now), I headed off for the aerial car to Mt. Faber and Sentosa Island.  Sentosa is a 
huge amusement park built on an island of reclaimed land, with a Swiss-made aerial car 
connecting it to the mainland.  While I had no desire to visit Sentosa, the aerial car offers an 
impressive view of the Singapore skyline and harbor between its three stops (Mt. Faber, the 
World Trade Centre, and Sentosa), and is well worth the price.  Figuring I should head for 
the City Hall MRT station, I noticed a sign indicating an underground passageway to the 
station, and entered Singapore's first underground shopping mall.  Though the bright, clean 
boutiques were all closed, at least it was air-conditioned, and other people were using it as a 
walkway as well.  Finally spotting a normal SingTel phone, I called the tourist information 
line to ask how to get to the aerial car from where I was... the agent wasn't sure, and wound 
up telling me the wrong bus numbers (I then called the river boat company to make sure 
their boats were running today — they were).
	As the agent suggested I head towards the Raffles Hotel, I walked up out of the 
undergrond mall to find myself by the Westin Plaza and Westin Stamford Hotels: at 70 
floors, the Westin Stamford is the hightest hotel in the world, but there's no access to a view 
unless you pay for a room (coming back later to check at night, I was able to take the 
elevator to the 63F, but there are no windows outside the rooms).  This morning I stepped 
into the Westin Plaza (thinking it was the Westin Stamford) to see a nice view of the city — 
as here in the Plaza, there's a decent (though not spectacular) view available from the area 
between the North and South towers on the 21F.
	Leaving the hotel, I needed to find the bus to the World Trade Centre (the middle of 
the aerial car's three stops, and the easiest stop to get to).  After trying in vain to find one, I 
walked back to the Raffles Hotel, where bus after bus came by — but each driver would tell 
me it wasn't the correct bus (bus stop signs in Singapore aren't well thought-out: they list 
some of the various destinations each bus goes to, but the World Trade Centre wasn't even 
on the sign for the bus that actually goes there).  Finally being told by a few drivers that I 
needed Bus #100 (different than what I had been told by tourist information), a driver 
informed me that I'd need to wait on the other side of the street — except I couldn't see a 
bus stop there, and it took a few minutes to cross and actually find the darn thing.  After 
waiting about 10 minutes, a Bus #100 came by and I boarded it (S$0.80/US47c — S$0.70 if 
paying with a farecard).  On board the bus was a sign which read: "no smoking, no 
food/drinks, no littering, no durians — maximum fine S$1,000 or collective work order."
	Finally arriving at the World Trade Centre (an ugly area serving the cargo industry 
with plenty of construction going on), I walked a bit until arriving at the building where you 
board the aerial car (obvious, as the car goes right through the top floor of it).  A 4-segment 
fare (so you can go WTC -> Mt. Faber, Mt. Faber -> WTC, WTC -> Sentosa, and Sentosa -> 
WTC) is S$6.90/US$4.01 — but unless you want to spend time on Sentosa as well, be sure 
to make it clear that you want to be charged only for the aerial car and not for admission to 
Sentosa (the lady ticket agent — who had a voice like a man's — charged me for both, even 
though I said "aerial car only please" — and had to then subtract the S$6 Sentosa 
	Even though it can be a hassle to get to and the ride isn't that long, the aerial car is 
still worth the trip: the view is fantastic, and you can see both the downtown skyline as well 
as the port area (spread out before you are the hundreds of "dinosaur" cranes which offload 
cargo from the ships).  Unless it's crowded you'll be given a car to yourself, with a running 
audio commentary in your choice of languages (you can also choose silence) explaining the 
sights around you.  The windows don't roll down of course, but usually one of the side 
windows is open a little, and an employee at the World Trade Centre station constantly 
cleans the windows of each car as it comes in.
	Taking the car first from WTC-Mt. Faber, I got out to walk around for a few minutes 
(allowed at any stop), heading down a path for a better view.  In the distance were dozens of 
Singapore's trademark apartment blocks, where 90% of its residents live... and unlike such 
high-density housing in other contries, they aren't squalid or run-down, but clean, tidy, and 
well kept-up (often painted in interesting colors or motifs).  After walking around and talking 
to a British couple, I got back on the aerial car... the car this time wasn't the best (not only 
was the audio system broken, but one of the windows was scratched)... so at the WTC, I 
decided to switch cars.  Continuing onto Sentosa, I had a look at the giant amusement park 
from above: as Singapore's answer to Disneyland, the island is split into various areas with 
different themes... and though quiet now, the park can become quite busy during holiday 
periods.  Not interested in getting out though, I continued on back to the World Trade 
Centre.  In the distance I could see Jurong Island with its oil refineries... Singapore is one of 
the largest oil refining countries in the world, and the Jurong Island refineries supply almost 
all of Asia.  Looking back at the skyline and all the cargo cranes, the audio commentary 
mentioned that the Port of Singapore services over 80,000 ships a year — with one arriving 
or departing every 3 minutes.
	Finished with the aerial car, I bit the bullet and paid S$1.50 for a Coke from a World 
Trade Centre station machine before leaving the building. Noticing yet another ad for KFC's 
S$0.50 soft-serve cones, I saw a small shopping complex attached to the World Trade Centre 
with a McDonald's, and asked someone if there was a KFC nearby.  Being told there was one 
in the building next door, I walked there only to see no KFC in sight.  Finally asking 
someone else, I was told it was actually a 5 minute walk out the back — so I decided to 
forget it and just wound up getting a pre-packed S$0.80/US47c McDonald's chocolate ice-
cream cup.  Starting to eat it as I walked towards the bus stop (using an overpass, as 
construction for the new MRT line below made it impossible to cross the street), the bus 
came by almost immediately — and with no eating on the bus (strictly enforced in 
Singapore), I put the cup back into the bag and hoped it wouldn't melt too quickly (at least 
the bus was air-conditioned).  Inside, a middle-aged Chinese guy started up a conversation 
with me... he had attended school in Pittsburgh, and when he found out I was from 
California, wanted to know if CitiBank had a large presence there, or if it was mostly an 
east-coast bank (he was currently on his way to a local CitiBank branch).
	Getting off the bus by the river (and finishing my ice-cream), I went to take a 
riverboat cruise.  Though I usually don't go for such touristy things, the price wasn't bad 
(S$10/US$5.81 for 30 minutes) and it would allow me a good view of the city's skyscrapers 
(a hobby of mine) — not to mention enjoying a nice breeze out on the water.  The riverboats 
cruises leave from Clark Quay every 15 minutes, and heading down to the Quay area, I 
walked past rows of shuttered cafes and shops lining the riverbank which would open later 
in the day.  Buying my ticket, I sat down to wait in the hot weather for about 10 minutes 
until a boat was ready to leave.  At first I was the only one on board, though just as we were 
about to depart, a middle-aged white South African couple joined me.
	The boats are small unassuming little motorboats with benches and a covered top... 
our driver today was an elderly Chinese man who didn't speak much English, but as the 
ships all have audio systems which play a pre-recorded running commentary about the 
various sights you're seeing, there wasn't much need for him to speak to us (a small chime 
tells the driver to stop the tape until arriving at the next location).  Though nothing special, 
the cruise was nonetheless an enjoyable way to relax and cool off, with some nice views of 
the skyline up close (though the Merlion statue still wasn't spouting any water).  The old 
driver would occasionally motion at a good place to take a picture, and as well as using an 
entire roll of film on the city's skyscrapers during the 30 minute trip, I also enjoyed speaking 
with the South African couple about everything from the low value of the rand to their recent 
	When finished at the river, I decided to find the 30F UOB Building observation deck 
the tourist information line had mentioned while the weather was still holding (a bit cloudy 
now, it was still good enough for viewing).  Walking through the downtown area with its 
skyscrapers, I entered the OUB Building by mistake.  However this actually turned out to be 
a good thing, for there are some nice views from the OUB Building as well: thinking it was 
the UOB Building, I didn't even bother to ask the security guard downstairs where the 
viewing area was, and just headed for the 38F (as it would be higher than the 30F).  Many of 
the floors in this building are occupied by Exxon/Mobil, but there are windows by the lifts 
on each one, and with the way the building is set up, you won't even be noticed unless 
someone enters or leaves one of the various offices.  Though the view was only in one 
direction, it was still quite nice, and I wound up taking a few pictures.  When finished, I 
went down to the lobby and found the lifts on the other side... these go up to the 60F 
(without a special key you're able to go up to the 58F), and the view was even better (the 
offices here were for Swiss Re Life and Health).
	Not having seen any notice of a public observation deck in the building, I finally 
asked the security guard on the way out about it — and he mentioned that it was in the 
nearby UOB (United Overseas Bank) Building, not the OUB (Overseas Union Bank) Building.  
Walking out to enter the correct office tower this time, I found that the public viewing area 
isn't on the 30F as the tourism office tells people, but rather the 38F: the 38F is the transfer 
point between the lifts for the lower and higher floors, and there's a large public viewing area 
here covering half the building.  On the 60F is a restaurant with a nice view (open to the 
public), but it's expensive, and they don't allow anyone inside who's not going to dine (the 
place was packed almost exclusively with Japanese tourists having lunch).
	Leaving the UOB Building for one of the more interesting skyscrapers of Singapore, I 
took the lifts inside the new (1998) Republic Plaza Building. There's a restaurant on the 62F 
I had a quick look at ("The Tower Club"), but it's for members only, and I was quickly 
stopped.  Having a look at a few random floors on the way down, I was disappointed to see 
no windows outside the offices, and the lifts in full view of everyone (a shame, as it's an 
interesting building with probably some great views).
	With my skyscraper hopping now finished, I wanted to head away from downtown 
and go out to see suburban Singapore, where most of the country's residents live (most 
tourists tend to think of Singapore only as the downtown area, but downtown is only one 
small part of the country).  Though I had planned to do this from the start on my own, I 
actually found the same suggestion while browsing through the Lonely Planet last night 
(nice to know we think alike), with the book recommending a stop at the Tampines MRT 
station not only for the typical apartment block scene (actually the stop before Tampines 
[Simei] has more apartment blocks), but for some "local" shopping centers as well.
	Taking the MRT out to Tampines, the first part of the trip was a repeat from 
yesterday (as the ferry terminal stop of Tanah Merah is on the way), though it was still 
interesting to look out the windows once again.  The suburbs here are filled with the colorful 
high-density housing blocks (hundreds of them), rows and rows of identical townhomes 
right next to each other, and every now and then neighborhoods with small, compact private 
houses with tiny yards.  Every once in a while a stretch of green appeared, though a sign 
next to one read "State Land: No Playing of Football."  There are also plenty of large schools 
for the different neighborhoods (all clean and modern), with some displaying banners 
touting their high scores or recent victories.
	At Tampines there are two adjoining malls: Golden Village and Century Park, and 
while they aren't anything special, they're typical of where most Singaporeans shop.  With it 
now being sunny, hot, and humid, I wound up looking around in them from 3:00pm-
4:15pm... with the feel of an American mall, they were soon filled with hundreds of kids in 
school uniform just out of class hanging out, eager to buy the latest fashion or fad from a 
trendy shop.  Entering the Golden Village Mall first, the Fair Price Supermarket in the 
basement had cheaper prices than the stores downtown, and I wound up buying six Shige 
Kicks for S$1.95/US$1.13 and two 250ml orange juices for S$0.60/US35c each (though the 
240ml containers were originally attached as "bonus" containers to larger ones, the store 
was selling them separately for a cheap price).  Nearby was a food court (I bought a 
doughnut and cheese pastry), and the mall also contains an 8-plex cinema.  The Century 
Park Mall next door was similar, with another good supermarket/food court area in the 
basement (sample prices: 5 Sunkist California oranges: S$2.90/US$1.69, 5 green apples: 
S$1.90/US$1.10, and a can of soda: S$0.65/US38c), and featured a Metro department store 
as well as plenty of individual shops on the upper levels.  In one shop, I found legitimate 
VCDs of "Tonari no Totoro" and "Kimagure Orange Road Memorial" (Japanese animation) for 
S$10/US$5.81, and back in the Golden Village Mall again, found the complete 12-VCD set 
of "Kimagure Orange Road" at Disc Megamart for S$36/US$20.93 (the same set was later 
S$44 at another shop).
	At 4:15pm I left to take the MRT back to town, and while waiting, noticed a sign 
indicating a S$5,000/US$2,907 fine for going onto the tracks (as Tampines was an outside 
station, the tracks weren't protected by glass).  Taking the train back to City Hall, I 
transferred to a train for Sommerset Station (located in the middle of Orchard Road), where 
it was cloudy and humid.  Not being too interested in Orchard Road itself, I returned to the 
area today simply so I could take a few pictures in better light (as I had walked around the 
area at dusk two nights ago).  However there really wasn't much more to take pictures of, so 
I wound up spending a bit of time looking for T-shirts and keychains.  Many shops were 
running a 3-for-S$10/US$5.81 special on T-shirts, but they all seemed to be out of the good 
ones in "M"... so I settled for buying a slurpee at a 7-11 (there must be at least a dozen 7-
11s along Orchard Road).
	Walking back, I noticed the police controlling traffic for minute while some dipolmatic 
cars drove into Istana (the home of Singapore's President). Asking a policeman what was 
going on, he replied "if I am not wrong, I believe it is the Prime Minister of Mongolia" (this 
wasn't correct though, for the next day I read in the paper that the Deputy Prime Minister of 
Malaysia visited to discuss relocating a railroad station... and in the evening — about the 
time I was outside — a delegation of 40 young Malaysian leaders were visiting with their 
Singaporean counterparts at Istana to meet each other, interact, and have dinner).
	A few minutes later I ran into something which made me glad I decided to come back 
to Orchard Road: though I didn't realize it at the time, today was the Indian holiday of 
Thaipusam (as well as Chinese Valentine's Day, as I later found out) — and all along Penang 
Road (which is close and somewhat parallel to Orchard Road) was a procession of Indian 
men making a pilgrimage between two area temples (starting at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal 
Temple on Serangoon Street and ending at the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple on Tank Road, 
4kms later).  The men were wearing kavadis (decorative head gear suspended with spikes 
that pierce the stomach), and as the police kept vehicular traffic to one lane (controlling 
pedestrians crossing at the intersections), the men walked down Penang Road (now lined 
with spectators and well-wishers).
	Not sure what was happening, a white lady informed me that it was Thaipusam 
today... and later asking some Indians who had come out to watch and cheer the 
participants on, was told that the holiday is celebrated by Indians all over the world on the 
same day ("from India to Britain"), and is a day when men take, and promise to fulfill their 
vows.  Though a policeman said the walk "began in the morning and would last until 
10:00pm," one Indian gentleman I spoke with said that it actually began at 1:00am and 
would end late tonight.  Every few minutes a man wearing a kavadi would walk down the 
street (usually accompanied by a few friends), and as he'd pass, those in the crowd would 
cheer him on.
	After watching for about 20 minutes, I continued my walk back, this time going 
through the part of Ft. Canning Park I had skipped the other day (past some gravesites of 
important historical figures, as well as the local drama school).  Back near the hotel area, I 
headed for Coleman and Northbridge to look for T-shirts — and found one of the cheapest 
shops in town: the ABC Bargain Centre.  Though the shop sells only miscellaneous 
merchandise (little souvenirs, cheap watches, food, etc.) the sign outside advertising the 
lowest prices in town isn't a lie: the cold sodas in back were only S$0.50/US29c 
(S$0.60/US35c for 100 Plus), and a 4-pk of Mentos was only S$1.90/US$1.10.
	Buying some Mentos and a soda, I walked to Suntec City again for a look at its shops 
and fountain.  The first thing I did was head for the food court though... unlike food courts 
in Malaysia, most ones in Singapore are immaculate and bright, complete with brushed 
steel counters and neon signs showing pictures of the various food items available (I opted 
for some Hokkien Fried Noodles and a few pork dumplings).
	After dinner I went to have a look at the world's biggest fountain... the Suntec 
Fountain is quite impressive, with both an arc that throws water down as well as ground 
jets that shoot water up — and though it's not the highest as far as the shooting water is 
concerned, it's the highest in terms of its actual structure (reading a sign about it outside 
later, it said that many people come to the fountain for luck — and if you walk around it for 
a certain length of time, it's supposed to bring good fortune).  There are nightly laser-light 
shows at the fountain, and shortly before 8:00pm I walked out to the viewing area to sit 
down and wait while a young Indian lady DJed tunes on the PA system.  At 8:00pm the 
laser-light show began, and it was quite nice: for 8 minutes, ever-changing colored 
spotlights were projected onto the fountain, with multiple lasers reflecting animated images 
off the water's fine mist (forming moving people, animals, aliens, birds, dinosaurs, and other 
assorted characters).
	When finished I headed back to the hotel, but stopped in a the Westin Stamford to 
see if there was a view (as mentioned earlier, there wasn't).  Back at the corner of 
Northbridge and Coleman around 9:30pm, I stopped at the "Shop Inn" clothing store next to 
the ABC Bargain Centre to buy an Arnold Palmer "umbrella" polo shirt for 
	Close to the hotel I suddenly realized I had too much S$ on me (back at Suntec, I had 
used and ATM to get a bit more S$ — at the time not noticing the S$50 bill I had tucked 
away in my passport).  As I'd be leaving for Malaysia tomorrow, I wanted to change some of 
the excess S$ into RM or US$, but asking at two hotels near the Mayfair City Hotel, none 
would change S$ into anything (only willing to change other currencies into S$).  The lady at 
one of the hotels suggested trying a nearby money changer, but he was already closed, and 
I'd be leaving early in the morning tomorrow.
	Back at the Mayfair City Hotel at 10:00pm, I paid the old man for the last two nights 
of the room and went upstairs to write a bit in the journal.

Feb. 8: Melaka (Malaysia) / Kuala Lumpur
	Up at 6:50am, I was out the door by 7:00am.  Running into the old man up on the 
2F, I showed him how I had left a few items I would no longer need in the room (including a 
polo T-shirt and a little-used towel), and by 7:10am I was on the MRT headed for Lavendar 
Station.  While walking the short distance to the Laveendar Street Car Park, I stopped in at 
a Shell petrol station to pick up a newspaper (The Straits Times), an Orangina, and a water.
	Each ticket for the 8:00am Melaka bus had a seat number on it, and though I first 
sat in the correct one, I soon moved towards the back where there were plenty of empty 
seats.  Cloudy but with a bit of sun outside, the bus drove through the heart of "real" 
Singapore (ie, the suburbs), passing one high-density housing block after another in endless 
succession.  Going through Jurong, there were joggers running along a grass strip, a 
colorful neighborhood school, and plenty more apartment blocks... at least we were headed 
out of town though, and weren't stuck in the bumper-to-bumper traffic of the rush-hour 
commuters headed into downtown.
	In 40 minutes we were at the Singapore/Malaysia border, where everyone got off to 
go through immigration.  With few people crossing that morning we were finished with the 
Singapore side in a matter of minutes, and soon re-boarded the bus to cross a bridge into 
Malaysia.  There, immigration was also fast, and "customs" consisted only of two Malay 
ladies chatting with each other.
	Finished with the borders by 9:15am, I was now back in Malaysia, where much of the 
land appeared undeveloped (unlike nearby Singapore), with plenty of grass and weeds, and 
an occaional large palm tree plantation.
	While reading the Straits Times on the bus, I found out about the Malaysian 
delegation visiting at Istana, as well as yesterday's double holiday (with lots of information 
given about Thaipusam and Chinese Valentines Day).  For Thaipusam, it mentioned that 
16,000 people took part in the processional, with 1,200 devotees wearing kavadis and 7,500 
carrying milk pots.  The holiday is a time for believers to fulfil vows they have made, seek 
forgiveness, or offer thanks to Lord Murugan (a Hindu deity representing virtue, youth, and 
power).  The holiday (which falls on a full-moon day in the Tamil month of Thai) has been 
celebrated in Singapore for 150 years, and leaders of other religious faiths were also invited 
to attend.  The story on Chinese Valentines Day mentioned that it was tradition for young 
ladies wishing to find a good husband to throw oranges into the river, and included some 
interviews with various young women on whether or not they took part in the ritual.
	Another story in the paper concerned Singapore's Social Development Unit (the state 
matchmaking agency — a unit of the government which provides opportunities for singles to 
meet one another).  The story mentioned that for the first time, the SDU would start 
advertising (in the Straits Times and elsewhere), with ads touting some of the agency's 
success stories (one such story was the marriage of a local 29-year-old Chinese woman [a 
public servant] to a 30-year-old permanent resident originally from Australia.  The lady 
wasn't ashamed to have her story told, and mentioned that it makes for great conversation 
at parties whenever she tells people how she and her husband first met with the aid of the 
SDU).  According to the paper, the SDU arranges over 800 activities a year, ranging from 
trips to self-development courses, to sports and dance lessons.
	One part of the paper was a humorous look at "Break-Boy Wanna-Bes", with 
columns on how and where to try everything from break-dancing to tagging (grafitti) — as 
well as your success probabiliby for each endeavor.  For grafitti, the article "recommended" 
HDB (high-density housing blocks), MRT cars, and automobiles — though under the column 
of "chances of pulling it off", listed "zero, because of the police" (under the column of "props 
required", it said "you're not going to carry it off, are you?  Remember Michael Fay?")
	At 10:15am we turned off the main highway, and at 10:20am stopped at a pre-
determined rest stop with a food stall and market.  Buying a package of Toasties corn 
snacks (RM2.20/US58c), I asked the Chinese guy at the register if they took S$, and found 
out that I could exchange my S$ for RM at a 1:2 rate (receiving RM64 for my S$32 instead of 
the RM71 I'd receive at a bank).  Though the rate wasn't that great, the difference still wasn't 
all that much (RM7/US$1.84), so I decided to change all my remaining S$ here.
	After the 20 minute stop, we continued down the main highway for the rest of the 
forgettable, boring drive.  For most of the trip there isn't much to see other than weeds and 
palm trees (the main highway bypasses a lot of towns), but as we began to approach the 
general Melaka area, businesses began sprouting up along the side of the road.  Just before 
arriving at the Melaka bus station, the driver pulled into a petrol station to re-fuel the bus, 
wasting 12 minutes instead of letting the passengers off first (he was also smoking a 
cigarette right next to the pumps).  When finished, he drove the last 2 minutes to the station 
and dropped everyone off at 12:40pm.
	The first thing I did off the bus was buy a ticket for the rest of the journey onto KL 
later that afternoon, choosing a 4:15pm departure time ("be here at 4:00pm" I was told).  
Though the ticket said RM7.90, I was charged RM8/US$2.11... and upon asking if there was 
a place to leave my luggage, I was told to see the guy next door (a nice older Chinese guy 
selling tickets for other cities who will watch your luggage for RM1/26c a day — though he 
won't keep anything overnight).
	Walking down Jalan Bunga Raya towards downtown, I passed plenty of small shops 
on both sides of the road (though I didn't spend the time to look inside them now).  A bit 
later, I came to a nice modern church before walking past some maroon-painted buildings to 
enter the historic town center.  Melaka was once occupied by both the Portugese and the 
Dutch, and some of the original buildings from the 1600s (including the maroon-colored 
Christ Church and Stadthuys) still remain.  While having a quick look inside the old Christ 
Church, Muslim prayers (in Arabic) started up outside, and it was interesting to hear them 
while standing in a 1600s Christian church.
	The old Stadthuys building has a fantastic museum (probably the best in Malaysia) 
with displays and exhibits covering everything from daggars to traditional musical 
intruments to Melakan history, as well as numerous paintings and life-size diaramas 
(including a mock-up of a traditional Melaka kampung house).  The museum's only 
drawback is that photography isn't allowed inside — but even if you're not "into" museums, 
this one (at only RM2/US53c) is definitely worth your time.  Though you can literally spend 
hours here, my limited time only afforded me a quick walk-through — though I still 
managed to take in quite a bit from all the different displays on its two floors (the 2F 
concentrates on Melakan history).  Every exhibit has a placard in both Malay and English, 
so understanding what's being displayed is never a problem... and one of the best exhibits in 
the museum is a set of displays showing the traditional wedding ceremonies of some of the 
native peoples of the area (including those partially descended from Portugese settlers).  On 
hot days it can get a bit stuffy (even in the 2F rooms with windows), as the only area with 
air-con is the kampung room... but it's such an interesting museum that you won't even 
	Leaving the museum, I walked up a nearby hill to the remains of Bukit St. Paul's 
Church (originally built by the Portugese in 1521)...  rennovations were currently taking 
place (with too much scaffolding around for a decent picture), though from the hilltop I 
could see Pulau Melaka, a new RM2 billion offshore resort island built on reclaimed land.  
Walking back to the center of town, I used the public toilets (RM0.20/US5c) before heading 
off to explore the area's Chinatown.
	While nothing out of the ordinary, Melaka's Chinatown is nevertheless interesting to 
walk through, with lots of antique (junk) shops lining the narrow roads and plenty of old 
buildings to pique your interest.  It also happens to be home to Malaysia's oldest Chinese 
temple: the Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, built in 1645 (though recently rennovated).  The 
English-speaking staff was quite welcoming of tourists, eager to explain some of the various 
rituals taking place (such as the sticks and fortunes) to anyone who asked.  There were a 
number of European and American tour-bus groups walking around that afternoon, but 
even if you're not with a group, the staff will go out of their way to answer any questions you 
might have (even handing out little pieces of chocolate to visitors for good luck).
	Turning to walk down a side street, I stopped at a small store to buy a popsicle... the 
old Chinese lady running it was sleeping in the hot afternoon, but woke up as I bought one 
from her (it was so hot that I soon returned to buy another, as they had the cheapest prices 
in town).
	Walking back along Jalan Bunga Raya (the main, modern street of the city stretching 
between the old part of town and the area by the bus station), I decided to stop in a few 
stores that I had walked past earlier.  The watch shops here were selling knockoff Casio 
watches labelled as "CASIQ" instead of "CASIO"... and in a corner shop (with prices clearly 
marked), I found the same Casio watch I had seen at Mustafa (in Singapore) a few days 
earlier.  The Chinese-run store was asking RM29/$7.63 for the watch — the exact same 
price in US$ (almost to the penny) that Mustafa had asked for it (S$13).  Deciding just to 
buy the darn thing (a nice analog watch with a 24hr dial), I picked one up and headed back 
to the bus station.
	Stopping in at one of the many shops by the station, I bought two doughtnuts at a 
bakery as well as a soda nearby (passing a few touts trying to sell me tickets and taxi rides).  
Collecting my baggage from the old Chinese guy (who was just about to leave — though 
someone else would have looked after the bags), I saw a sign on the ticket window saying 
that the 4:10pm bus was now sold out, with the next available one being at 5:45pm.  When 
the bus left at 4:20pm though, I noticed plenty of empty seats — but that soon changed as 
the bus turned out not to be an express to KL as promised, but a slow one taking the busy 
streets and stopping along the way to pick up passengers.  The bus didn't enter the 
expressway until one full hour into the trip, and spent most of that hour in heavy traffic on 
one-lane surface streets in order to pick up passengers at other stops (the driver also 
seemed more concerned with changing radio stations than watching the road).  On one level, 
this little detour was nice in that the view outside was more interesting than the boring 
scenery available from the expressway — but by now I was anxious to return to KL, and I 
didn't like the thought that I'd be arriving into KL later than planned.  Still, I managed to see 
plenty of traditional kampung houses along the road that first hour, and somehow made the 
best of it.  The worst part about the trip though was that the bus had been over-sold: at the 
second stop, two more people had been sold tickets than there were seats.  At first the two 
young Malay ladies without seats stood in the aisle, though after a while some people in 
front squished in, sitting 3-in-a-row-of-2 for the rest of the trip.  Though there were a few 
Chinese on the bus, most passengers seemed to be young Muslim ladies in their late teens 
or early 20s, with many probably being college students.  After the 2nd stop we finally went 
onto the expressway — at which point the driver turned off the radio and turned on the VCD 
player (hooked up to a TV monitor for the passengers), starting the James Bond movie "The 
World Is Not Enough" somewhere in the middle.
	Arriving into KL at 6:45pm, we were forced to stop at a busy intersection just a few 
blocks shy of the Puduraya Bus Station for what seemed like eternity, as police let traffic 
from the other direction flow for two consecutive cycles.  Finally we were allowed to move, 
and arrived back at the Puduraya Bus Station at 7:00pm (the station I'd pass on my walks 
from Chinatown back to the Jalan Alor area).
	Walking along the sidewalk (complete with streetlights) up to the Jalan Bukit 
Bintang/Jalan Alor area, I soon arrived at the Hotel Nova.  Earlier in the day I had phoned 
the hotel from Melaka to let them know I would indeed be coming, as the internet hotel 
broker said the reservation would expire if I didn't show up by 6:00pm (I also called the 
Seasons View a few days ago to cancel my reservation there... nothing was wrong with the 
Seasons View, but I was able to get a good rate at the Hotel Nova — which is just 2 minutes 
walk down the same street — and just wanted to try someplace new).  The current rate at 
the Malaysian-Chinese run Hotel Nova was RM105/US$27.63, but I managed to get an 
internet rate of RM95/US$25 (including all taxes and breakfast).
	Checking into the hotel, I asked for a room which wouldn't face Jalan Alor (as the 
street remains busy through the night), and was given room #910, a nice large room with a 
safe-deposit box and a good view of a quiet street.  Setting my bags down, I left to walk to 
Chinatown for dinner, going via Jalan Pudu and Jalan Hang Tuah (for some reason I always 
wound up walking to Chinatown this way, but returning by way of the Puduraya Bus 
Station, along another part of Jalan Pudu).  With the sidewalk closed for a stretch due to 
road work, I was careful to watch out for cars... and down a side street, I called up my 
sister's in-laws (who live in KL) to say hello before reaching Chinatown.
	Stopping once more at the cook-your-own-skewer restaurant, I had a wonderful 
dinner (including abalone) for RM12/US$3.16... and while walking along the sidewalks of 
the stall-filled streets, found a shop selling older CD-ROMs for RM2/US53c (I picked up 3, 
though I didn't really have a use for them).
	Walking back from Chinatown, I decided to have a look around Bukit Bintang for a 
bit... and back at the hotel, I re-arranged everything in the bags after writing in my journal.  
A bit later, I went out to buy some soda water from the cheaper independent convenince 
store across from the 7-11 (just down from the Seasons View) before returning back to 
watch a bit of TV.

Feb. 9: Kuala Lumpur
	Waking up today at 7:20am, I didn't need to be in any particular hurry, as most 
businesses would be closed until the late morning.  Skipping the hotel breakfast, I went out 
walking the streets of KL again at 8:15am.
	This morning I decided to cover some of the same ground I had earlier in the trip, 
walking up Jalan Pudu to Jalan Raja Laut and Jalan Ipoh before heading out towards the 
Batu Caves along Jalan Ipoh (though this time I was headed in the opposite direction as my 
walk returning from the Caves back in December).  Passing the various tile and bath shops, 
I also came upon two very nice Indian temples and stopped inside them for a look.  There 
really wasn't a reason for walking this route again except I just felt like going out walking... 
a bit after passing the Ford dealership, I turned around to return back.
	On the way back, I decided to walk past the Putra World Trade Centre... as there's 
not too much there (it's more of a meeting/exhibition center), I was going to check out the 
shopping mall across the street — but then I noticed the Malaysian Tourist Information 
Office inside.  Stopping in to ask the hours of the Petronas Towers, the lady behind the desk 
gave me the usual cold shoulder, actually giving priority to incoming telephone calls rather 
than the one person in her office — me.  When I asked if Petronas would be open to the 
public today, she said "yes" to brush me off — but as I knew many places close mid-day on 
Fridays, I then asked specifically if Petronas would close in the afternoon.  Finally taking out 
a book and looking up the correct schedule, she casually mentioned that it would close at 
12:15pm (it was now 10:45am)... if I hadn't specifically asked her about it closing early, I 
would have missed my one last chance to see the building.  The lady suggested taking a taxi 
there (as one needs a reservation time to enter the Sky Bridge), and though I wanted only to 
walk the city this morning, I now had no choice but to go outside and catch a cab.
	Having never taken a taxi in KL before, when one pulled up in front of the World 
Trade Centre, I asked the driver if he'd use the meter (otherwise I'd refuse to get in)... when 
he said "yes", I entered and sat down in front.  Pulling away, he hadn't yet turned the meter 
on... as I once again reminded him to use the meter he became quite irritated, saying "yes, I 
will use the meter... why do you keep asking?"  Seeing him turn the meter on, I replied 
"sorry, but I just came from Penang" (where taxi drivers are notorious for refusing to use 
their meters).  Understanding, his anger subsided as he said "Ah, well in KL we all use the 
meters."  Driving me through the city, the middle-aged Malay asked where I was from, and 
beamed with pride as he talked about his country's economy and achievements (such as 
building the Petronas Towers), commenting that Malaysia has it all — oil, electronics, 
agriculture, manufacturing — and that if one sector has a temporary slump, other sectors 
can be relied upon.  While passing some of the unfinished monorail columns, I asked him 
about the stalled project... his response was that yes, the monorail project had stopped 
when the economy turned bad, but has since started up again (and sure enough, walking 
back from Petronas later that morning, I passed a crew working on the pillars).
	The taxi ride from Putra World Trade Centre to the Petronas Tower was only 
RM4/US$1.05, and just a few minutes later I was at the Towers once again, re-visiting them 
from December.  With most sections of the Towers closed to the general public, the only area 
you're allowed to visit above ground is the Sky Bridge, which connects the two towers on the 
41F (while up on the Sky Bridge I noticed a restaurant on the 41F of the other tower, but 
was told it wasn't open to the public).  Walking inside the lobby, a lady behind a desk 
handed me a free entrance ticket with an exact time on it, telling me I should assemble at 
the bottom of the nearby escillator in a few minutes (tourists are taken up in groups every 
15 minutes, and are allowed 10-12 minutes before being ushered back down).
	Downstairs you must go through a security check and x-ray machine (with better 
security here than at Malaysia's airports), and are given a color-coded badge identifying you 
as being with a particular time's group.  Lining the walls of the waiting area are pictures and 
the story of how the Petronas Towers were built, as well as some general information on 
Petronas (Malaysia's national oil company).  It was interesting to note that there were 
lightning problems during construction (with a few workers losing their lives) — and that the 
Sky Bridge we would soon be on was completely assembled before being lifted and lowered 
into place between the two towers.
	When it was time for our group to go up, a security guard escorted us in an elevator, 
letting us wander around the Sky Bridge for about 12 minutes (the bridge is very steady, 
with nice views of the city — though the 41F really isn't all that high).  At the other end of 
the bridge was a security guard making sure we didn't leave the group... and seeing only 
tourists around, I wondered if anyone in the offices actually uses the thing or not.  Though 
there isn't much to keep you occupied, I waited to see if I could stay longer — but when it 
was time for our group to go, the guard counted the number of people before calling out to 
me that it was time to return.
	While looking at the informational walls on the way out, I noticed that the Towers are 
the home of the city's main concert hall, where the Petronas-sponsored Malaysian 
Philharmonic Orchestra performs.  Being a violinist myself (and having heard about the 
orchestra's formation a few years back), I had to check it out... sure enough, the hall is 
located in the space between the two towers, and though I wasn't able to look inside, I did 
speak to one of the ladies at the indoor ticket counter (asking for an old program to peruse 
the names).  I also asked a few questions about the hall itself (it seats 800), and found out 
that tonight's concert would include the Nutcracker Suite and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 
3.  When I mentioned to the lady that I was a violinist, she nodded... but with me standing 
there in shorts and sandals, I wondered if she believed me.
	Leaving the Petronas Towers, I walked back to the Jalan Chow Kit area via Jalan 
Ampang and Jalan Sultan Ismail.  The area around Jalan Chow Kit is a good place to find 
watches, textiles, clothing, and other miscellaneous items at good prices (I decided to do a 
bit of watch shopping today, though while walking around I also picked up a colorful polo 
shirt for RM9.90/US$2.61).
	Looking at Q+Q watches (as they're cheap, but have decent Japanese movements in 
them), most shops in town were selling the analog styles for RM49-RM79... in this area most 
did as well, but a few shops stood out as being cheaper — with the best being "Mydin 
Wholesale Emporium" on Jalan TAR (Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman) in the Stanford Hotel 
area, just across the street from the Shell petrol station.  As with the Mustafa Centre in 
Singapore, Mydin had every item clearly marked with a price much less than you'd get 
elsewhere even after haggling.  The exact same Q+Q watches that were RM40-
RM50/US$10.53-US$13.16 elsewhere were RM15/US$3.95 here... those that were 
RM59/US$15.53 elsewhere were RM24/US$6.32 here... and a nice model with day & date 
which was selling for RM79/US$20.79 at all the other shops was RM36/US$9.47 here.  
Other than watches, Mydin also stocked a lot of junky electronics (a Chinese "Sunny" 
shortwave radio was just RM15/US$3.95), and it's only a shame they didn't carry better 
brands (one interesting item was a Muslim Talking Prayer Watch for RM39.90/US$10.50 — 
to remind you of prayer time).
	There's no food or drink allowed inside Mydin, and you must check your bags... as I 
had just bought a popsicle from the Shell mart across the street (RM0.70/US18c), the guard 
gave me a plastic bag to place it in, as I checked it at the front along with my daypack 
(luckily it didn't melt).  I refused to check my camera however, and just wore it around my 
neck while in the store (not easy, as the aisles were quite crowded).  Undecided about how 
many watches to buy, I asked the lady behind the counter to set a few different models aside 
for me, telling her I'd return after using an ATM outside (I first wanted to look around 
elsewhere in hopes of finding other stores as cheap... but in the end, none would be able to 
match Mydin's prices).
	Leaving Mydin, I walked around the area (by Jalan TAR and Jalan Haji Taib) for over 
an hour, making it as far as the Pan Pacific Hotel and its nearby mall (by the Putra WTC) 
which I had missed earlier in the day in order to head to the Petronas Towers.  With nothing 
special or cheap inside the mall though, I turned around to head back.  As Mydin doesn't 
accept credit cards, I stopped at the Maybank ATM outside before going in to buy the watch 
with the day & date.  At the front, there was no "thank you" or other such pleasantries from 
the Malay cashier, and I was once again reminded that while a Chinese cashier would 
usually offer the standard "thank you", I didn't encounter one Malay cashier who did.
	After buying the watch I walked down Jalan TAR towards Sogo, first stopping in at a 
clothing "reject" store (where clothes with slight imperfections were sold at lower prices).  
Though the bright, air-conditioned basement shop had a large selection of everything from 
slacks to jackets, nothing caught my eye, and I soon walked up to use the phone inside 
	Earlier in the day I called the Hotel Nova to ask them to arrange an airport shuttle 
pickup for me early tomorrow morning... the lady at the front desk told me to call back at 
2:00pm, but calling her back now, I was told that the airport shuttle didn't run that early in 
the morning (5:00am). I knew this was incorrect, but the lady at the hotel said this is what 
she had just been told, and wasn't able to make a reservation.  Hanging up, I called 
Malaysian Airlines to ask for the number of the shuttle service (to call them myself), but was 
given an incorrect number.
	After buying some Shige Kicks candy in the basement of Sogo, I left to continue 
walking in the area, only to find no working card or coin phones on the street (Malaysian 
phones have no coin-return mechanism on them in case a coin becomes stuck).  Though it 
started to drizzle, I kept walking, hoping to make it to the Central Market before the heavy 
afternoon rains.
	At the Central Market I went to the payphone area (where the few working phones 
were being hogged by people chatting away), and finally received the correct number for the 
shuttle from Malaysian Airlines.  Calling the shuttle up, I found out the lady at the hotel had 
just mid-understood: the first bus to leave the half-way station is at 5:30am, but in order to 
meet that bus, they'll come to your hotel at 5:00am to pick you up.  Making the reservation 
myself, I arranged for a 5:00am pickup the next morning.
	From the Central Market I decided to head off to the S&M Plaza, knowing that the 
rain would surely come soon — and just as I arrived, it began to come down hard, along 
with plenty of thunder and lightning.  Inside, the same Q+Q watch Mydin was selling for 
RM15 was RM49-RM59, and walking into the good VCD shop in the basement, I had 
another look at the bootleg all-region Chinese DVDs of the Studio Ghibli films (priced at 
RM236, though the lady said she'd go down to RM200/US$52.63).  Though I was tempted, 
she didn't have a DVD player to demonstrate them on, so I passed (the poorly-printed box 
advertised 11 movies on 4 DVDs even though there were only 10 — and even if the DVDs 
worked, I wasn't sure if I could turn off the Chinese subtitles.  The box also indicated a 4:3 
size rather than the 1.85:1 format the films were made in, so I decided to save my money).  
More tempting was to buy the Shin Kimagure Orange Road movie on Chinese DVD, but for 
much of the same reasons, I passed.
	Upstairs in the 5F food court, a can of 100 Plus was an expensive RM1.70 (I should 
have just waited, for after buying it I noticed cold 100 Plus sodas were only RM1.20 [and 
warm ones RM1.10] at the supermarket on the 4F).
	Leaving S&M (without looking in at the neighboring Koto Raya Centre), I walked back 
to the hotel to leave the heavy camera off and take my umbrella (though the rain had now 
stopped).  Resting for a few minutes from all the walking, I wrote a bit in the journal before 
going back out again to head for Lot 10 and Bukit Bintang Plaza nearby.  With a constant 
light rain, I then left to return once again to the S&M Plaza area.
	In the Koto Raya mall, I picked up a cheap little buddah statue for a friend who 
collects such trinkets... while it was only RM1.90/US50c at the shop here, another store 
had similar junky dragons for an incredible RM39.95/US$10.51.  The Q+Q watch that 
Mydin was selling for RM15 was RM52.90 here... many stores had those "CASIQ" watches 
for sale... and looking around the mall, I noticed the video arcade still very much in business 
(as back in December I had read in the paper that they were all to be closed nationwide as of 
Jan. 1st).
	Returning back to the basement of S&M Plaza next door, I wound up buying a VCD 
of "Little Mermaid II" at a neighboring shop for RM4/US$1.05 (of the various titles in the 
RM4 bargain bin, only "The Little Mermaid II" and "The Aristocats" were familiar — but as 
the lady mentioned that "The Aristocats" was dubbed in Cantonese, I opted only for "The 
Little Mermaid II").  As the disc was a VCD (Video CD) rather than a DVD, the lady at the 
shop was able to put it in her player and show me that it indeed did work... though I bought 
it more as an experiment than anything else, for I couldn't remember if my DVD player at 
home played VCDs or not (it does).  Up to this point I hadn't bought any VCDs (though I was 
tempted to buy "Emperor's New Groove" back in December, for I hadn't even seen the movie 
yet, and the price to buy the VCD would have been cheaper than seeing even a matinee of it 
at home), so I was curious to buy at least one, as the format isn't really found in the US.  
Interestingly, when the lady put the Little Mermaid II disc in the machine to demonstrate, 
the pitch was 1/2 step too high (typical when converting between NTSC and PAL) — but 
upon returning home and trying it in my NTSC player, it was also 1/2 step too high.
	Leaving the malls to get something to eat, I decided to stop at some different food 
stalls tonight, opting for some prawn mee noodle soup (RM3/US79c) in the area.  Being 
seated outside next to a bartender from New York, we talked for a bit before I left to take one 
final stoll through the stalls, buying two RM0.50/US13c pancake slices much like the ones I 
found on Pulau Bintan.
	Under a clear starry sky (with slippery wet streets), I walked back to the hotel area to 
finish having dinner on Jalan Alor.  There, I ordered a bowl of Penang Laksa (hot curry soup 
with noodles, RM3/US79c) at the top of the street before walking back down for some 
Penang Chiou Kwei Teow (RM3.50/US92c with egg).  With all the walking today, I had pretty 
much skipped breakfast and lunch (with only a few snacks along the way), so the food really 
hit the spot.
	When finished, I was going to go into the cheaper convenience store across the street 
from the 7-11 to buy soda water, but wanting a slurpee, I decided to visit the 7-11 instead.  
The slurpee machine listed two flavors: "Strawberry" and "Sour", but the signs must have 
been old and incorrect, for "Strawberry" was green.  Deciding to try something new, I asked 
the young Malay teenager behind the counter for a small "Sour"... but as the store had run 
out of "bubble" lids (which enable the cups to hold a bit more), she asked if it was OK just to 
have it filled to the top of the cup.  Saying it was, I proceeded to drink my slurpee while 
looking arond the store (as it was nice and air-conditioned inside).  The girl went back to 
talking to her co-worker (another young teenager), and after a minute or two, I finished it (I 
don't know what flavor it actually was, but it was quite good).  As I was ready to throw the 
cup away and leave, the second girl asked me if I'd like some more (free), and happily took 
the cup to re-fill it with "Sour" — though by now the "Sour" half of the machine was on 
defrost mode.  The girl suggested I try some green, but as I really liked the "Sour", I said I 
didn't mind if it was a bit watery.  Filling the cup with "Sour", it was indeed watery (more 
like soda than a slurpee), but was still quite tasty.  Thanking them both, I finished the cup 
in the store... but when ready to leave again, the Malay clerk actually smiled [a first] and 
suggested I try some of the green too, as she took my cup to fill it up to the top with 
whatever flavor "Green" was.  Asking me where I was from, the three of us chatted for a bit, 
as both girls seemed bored with their jobs with no one else around.  Finally thanking them 
once again, I left, finishing most (but not all) of the green flavor outside.
	Up to this point, a cold-shoulder attitude was the norm from just about every Malay 
I'd encounter, no matter how friendly I'd try to be (the only exceptions being when someone 
once showed me how to raise my seat on the bus, and just the hint of a return smile 
yesterday, as a young Malay woman sat down in her assigned seat next to me on the bus 
back to KL).  This demeanor had really started to wear on me — and whether the two 7-11 
girls knew it or not, their small gesture of being friendly and kind (and actually smiling) 
really made me feel better about Malaysia in my last few hours here.
	Finally stopping at the cheaper convenience store across the street for some cans of 
soda water, I returned back to the Hotel Nova, telling the staff at the front desk that 
everything was arranged for an airport shuttle pickup at 5:00am tomorrow morning.
	Going up to my room, I finished the day's journal before sorting through my things, 
setting out a few items I'd no longer need for the cleaning lady (the cap I bought in Cape 
Town, some spare BandAids, a comb, etc).  After taking a shower and setting my watch for 
4:45am, I finally turned off the lights at 11:50pm, deciding to sleep with the curtains open 
— as I'd be waking up before the sun and there was a nice view of the apartment block 
across the street and the KL Tower in the background.

Feb. 10: Kuala Lumpur / Tokyo (Japan) / Los Angeles (USA)
	Though my alarm was set for 4:45am, I woke up on my own at 4:40am.  Outside the 
window the view was much the same as a few hours ago, and after getting dressed, I 
grabbed my bags and went down to the lobby to pay for the room (RM190 for two nights).  
Leaving my bag by the front desk, I went out for a quick walk up the street to see which 
stalls and restaurants were still open — and was surprised to see about 1/3rd of them still 
serving customers.  Returning back to pick up my bag, I asked the man at the desk what 
time the stalls closed... his answer was that some stay open pretty much throughout the 
night, from 6:00pm to 6:00am.  Going outside to wait for the shuttle, the driver showed up 
right on time at 5:00am, and we soon headed off early this Saturday morning.
	At the half-way station I paid my RM25/US$6.58 and boarded the 5:30am bus with a 
few other passengers.  While the airport shuttle is currently the only practical option to get 
to-and-from KLIA, that will soon change, as while reading the Sun (an English-language 
Malaysian newspaper) later on the plane, I found out that an Express Rail Link between KL 
and the airport will become operational by next year (with the article commenting on how 
limo drivers tout and harass arriving passengers).
	Reaching the airport at 6:25am, I first went upstairs to fetch the bag from the left-
luggage facility before going down to check in for my flight.  Getting seat 60A (the first row 
with 2 seats instead of 3), I then went to get some breakfast.  Burger King didn't offer a 
breakfast menu, so I went to McDonalds for 2 Egg McMuffins (no ham in Malaysia) for 
RM3.65/96c each... interestingly, this time when I asked for a cup of water I was given one 
(perhaps enough people had complained).  I still had some ringett left afterwards, but most 
of the souvenir shops were still closed (with only a few pricier ones open so early).  Using the 
last of the remaining credits on my Time Kontact card, I called up a few friends in the US 
and Japan, as the 800 access number didn't seem to be blocked from the airport phones 
anymore.  Time Kontact had a bit of a glitch this morning though: while placing a call to a 
friend in the US, I was told I had 9mins 11secs of talk time available... after talking for 3-4 
minutes, the recording butted in again (right in the middle of our conversation), telling me I 
had 9mins 11secs of talk time left.  I then received a "processing error" recording, and was 
summarily cut off — but no credits were deducted for the call.
	When finished with the phone, I cleared immigration and caught the Aero Train to 
the satellite building where the appropriate gate was located. There, some souvenir shops 
had now opened, but their prices were sky-high: T-shirts that were RM8/US$2.11 in town 
were RM29-RM34/US$7.63-US$8.95 here, and metal keychains that were RM4-RM5 in 
town were RM12-19 — but using the last of my ringett, I bought a metal keychain for R12 
and a non-metal one for RM4.
	While buying the keychains, I realized my plane was already boarding... so I made my 
way to the gate as fast as I could.  In the seats in front of me was a Chinese couple and their 
daughter, all enormously large (they were thankfully kind enough not to recline their seats 
all the way), and sitting behind me was a young Japanese couple flying to LA (why they 
originated in KL instead of Tokyo I don't know).  Seeing them read a Japanese printout 
explaining the rules of poker, I asked if they were headed for Las Vegas... they were, and 
throughout the flight, we talked every once in a while as I tried to think of different things 
for them to see along the way.
	The flight from KL to Tokyo was supposed to take 5hrs 50mins, but soon passed 6 
hours due to a holding pattern.  Landing at Narita, I was startled to look out the window 
and see nothing but brown (from the fields to the grass at the airport) — before suddenly 
realizing that all my trips to Japan had taken place during spring or summer, and never 
winter (getting off the plane it was nice to feel the cool 10C weather in the connection tube 
after coming from hot, humid Malaysia).
	At Narita we were all required to leave the plane for 40-50 minutes, so I had a chance 
to stretch my legs and look around a few of the souvenir shops by the gates.  The one main 
duty-free shop didn't have anything exciting, but before leaving, I did wind up buying two 
ultra-thin pocket shavers at a snack kiosk.  I had no idea if the shavers (Lozenstar, 2-AAA 
size, Made in Japan, Y980/US$8.17 each) were any good or not, but decided to pick up two, 
as they were cheap enough.  Though the snack kiosk accepted US$ cash (with a sign 
indicating a US$1=Y120 exchange rate), they also accepted credit cards... so picking up a 
Snickers bar and an onigiri as well, I put everything on Visa.  I also tried to change the 
spare R50 South African rand note I had into US$ at an airport money changer, but was 
told they didn't deal with rand.
	The flight from Narita to Los Angeles was supposed to take 9 hours, but wound up 
being a bit longer.  For most of the time I watched movies (the current Japanese pick being a 
children's sci-fi adventure called "Juvenile", though it wasn't nearly as entertaining as 
"Space Travellers"), however the aircraft had constant problems with the entertainment 
system (with first and business class totally losing their feed, and coach passengers having 
to constantly push the MODE button on the controller to prevent the video from shutting 
off).  Walking into the lavatory to freshen up in-flight, I suddenly had the weird sensation 
that I was only coming to the US to visit — for I had been overseas so much recently (8 of 
the last 24 months) that I felt as if I was just visiting America temporarily (and as fate would 
have it, I'd soon leave again to spend the entire month of May in Japan).
	Touching down in Los Angeles at 10:15am I was finally home, and the trip I had 
planned and tried to take for so long was now over.  Thinking back to all I had seen and 
experienced, I realized how lucky I was to have been able to see these vastly different 
corners of the world, and while one part of me felt relieved to be home, another was already 
wondering when I'd be able to return.

	   ::::: End :::::