We woke at 6:25, dressed without showering and headed for early breakfast. After the cancelled excursions the past two days, I noticed passengers appeared antsy to go on the Shibaozhai trip, scheduled for 7:45 a.m., weather permitting. No cancellation was announced at breakfast. By the time we arrived in our rooms, a reminder blared over the PA to anyone leaving the ship to pick up a ship’s pass. The tour was on.
Sue proceeded to take a shower after breakfast as I plopped into the chair at the desk. The outing hadn’t interested me because of the damp drizzle with or without an umbrella.
My heart stopped. I glanced out the balcony doors and gulped. A ship coasted towards us and I knew we were going to crash. I leaped to my feet. I don’t know why. Not unlike a pillar of cement, I froze poker straight expecting the inevitable crash. We were going to die and there was nothing to do about it.
The drifting stopped mere inches away. How did they do that? Everything trickled rain: the balcony floor, the railings and chairs. I read the name on the side: President Cruise. It was smaller than ours, old and rusty. Curtains hung haphazardly missing hooks on rods. Clothes lines strung with laundry crisscrossed inside the rooms so close I could have reached across and pulled them off—maybe not quite—but too close for comfort. The Chinese passengers who came out on the back deck (the poop deck, I think) to see what was happening didn’t appear well-off.
A third ship moved alongside the second one, bigger than both of us: the Century Emerald. It drew closer and closer. The curtains pulled back, windows on the main deck revealed a fancy dining-room featuring round tables draped with milk-white cloths and bright yellow chair covers featuring bows on the back. The third ship floated towards the one between us. I waited for the crunch. It didn’t come. I watched a female cleaner (maid?) wipe down the railings on one of the balconies. What a hard worker, but why bother with this useless task?
The fumes were suffocating and the engines noisy even through the closed door.
The Chinese boat moved away in the opposite direction. Once again I held my breath as the Century Emerald inched towards us so close I could almost touch their balcony railings if I stepped out and leaned forward. A few curious international passengers on the Emerald watched us for a while. I wondered which of us were watchers watching the watchers. Soon, they returned to their rooms and closed the curtains. Maybe we weren’t that interesting.
The temperature in our room reached a high of 24, the highest since we boarded. I opened our curtains and doors again for fresh air, but not for long. The noisy engines were deafening. Why run them? Weren’t we anchored? The ships remained side-by side like strangers on a first date.
Sue lay on the bed reading with her swollen feet up on the headboard (actually the mirror above it). She’d suspected the moveable bubble above her toes might be blood. If she’d had a needle, she’d have drawn out the liquid. I suggested she see the ship’s doctor, but she refused.
Twice in ten minutes, Housekeeping came to make up our room. We offered to do it ourselves, but that wasn’t allowed. I noticed I’d become lazy since we boarded. What’s wrong with some down time after all the running around we did the first eight or nine days after our arrival in China?
A Captain’s Bridge Tour was announced over the PA, but I felt too lazy to move. Maybe I was still feeling the effects of our near crash. A different language presentation was scheduled every quarter hour from 10:00 to 11:15 in French, English, Chinese, Spanish and German—not specifically in that order. The interruptions soon became a nuisance.
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Next on January 23rd: On the Yangtze Day 16, Part 7 (Ghost City and Stairway to Hell) + More
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