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Location: At sea, in transit from Jamaica to Cartagena, Colombia
Today's telling detail: The bear
Sea legs, it turns out, are most definitely a real thing, but no amount of acclimation can keep you steady on your feet in ten-foot swells.
It's a day at sea, and walking has become an exercise in slapstick comedy; the floor is a moving target, never quite where our feet expect it to be. Our attempts to stay upright are an exercise in absurd ambulatory adaptation. Dramatic recreation:
Outside the piano bar, three generally spry Road Scholars in their 70s are amused and frustrated:
First Man: Everyone's walking like they're drunk!
Woman: I haven't walked like this since I was 23!
Second Man: It's embarrassing--stone sober but I can't stay up!
The effects of the waves on our gait is embarrassing, but even worse are the effects on the inner ear. Where there are swells, there is seasickness, and there are a whole lot of green faces today.
One person I meet says that the guy in the neighboring cabin has been holed up all day, making all manner of loud noises of nauseated agony: "He sounds like a bear!" My own stomach is feeling a bit topsy-turvy, though I'm actually mostly functional, a pleasant surprise, given my generally impressive/alarming abilities as a nausea magnet, capable of finding queasiness in the unlikeliest of conditions.
The clinic gives out free Dramamine, which is generous if amusingly Halloween-like, although probably the guiding principle is not benevolence so much as the crew's understandable desire not to have the evening's entertainment be a show called "800 People Projectile Vomiting."
The ship has its own coping mechanisms: four-meter-long stabilizing fins that are deployed in rough seas. As they're being deployed, they make the most horrible noise, an ominous THUNK THUNK THUNK that reverberates throughout the ship, as conversations stop and eyes widen and, inevitably, some smartass starts whistling "My Heart Will Go On." We hear it several times throughout the day, and it's never less than bone-chilling, even after a nearby crew member has offered smiling reassurance that's just the stabilizers. Not everyone has gotten this information, though, and I hear several people speculating, passing along rumors that evidently make their way to the voyage's Program Director, Nathan, who prepares a special slide for the evening's pre-port discussion:
"Please don't worry," Nathan says, with a patient smile, to the assembled passengers. "We are NOT running over a pod of whales."