Monday, August 15, 2016
We are at the end of our tour. Tomorrow we return to the capital. It has been a wonderful trip, and I’m sorry to see it end.
We are on a river cruise right now, the third day of it. Each day we stop off in a city and sightsee. Then we’re back on board by dinner time and heading to the next port. The ship is nice, though our cabin is a tad cramped. That’s okay. There’s plenty of room on the deck, and the scenery is spectacular. We’ve seen everything imaginable: old ruins from when the earliest Kalquorians lived and were not so worried about keeping things in their natural state, rolling hills of crops, temporary bazaars where merchants set up for arriving tourists like us, colorful fishing boats, and endless beaches.
I’m curious to see how Cifa’s ocean liners stack up against the river cruisers. That will make an interesting comparison I’m sure.
I got a little excited during breakfast today. We were enjoying local fare from the last port, prepared by one of the chefs that works on board the cruiser. Anrel was in my lap, having a bottle as I ate. She finished it off and right after she burped for me she started yelling out, “Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma.”
I gasped. “She said ‘mama’!” I was beside myself with delight.
The look on his face told me Betra hated to burst my bubble. He ventured, “I think she’s just babbling, Shalia.”
“It sounded like ‘mama’ to me,” Oses said grumpily, as if Betra was putting her down. “Anrel is very smart.”
“She’s smart, but most Earther babies don’t say their first words until they’ve reached a year. If I remember correctly, Kalquorian babies don’t speak until ten months.”
As if to prove his point, Anrel unleashed a stream of “Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba.” Oh look. Her first attempt at imitating sheep. I deflated.
I gave her precious little cheek a kiss. “Don’t worry about it, sweetheart. You’re still smart.” She burbled happily, not worried about her inability to hold a conversation.
I have to say, I didn’t know how well she’d travel for this tour. I thought for sure we wouldn’t be able to do much with her along, and that was fine. As long as I got to spend time with Betra and Oses before they left, I was counting it as a win.
But Anrel has been a terrific traveler. Her sunny disposition has rarely flagged. Oses and Betra have done anything and everything needed, caring for her nearly as much as I have. I don’t think we’ve missed out on anything we truly wanted to do just because she was with us.
And she’s a hit wherever she goes. Kalquorians are always excited to see her, to ask me about her. She seems universally adored. The only troubling reactions I’ve seen have been the occasional Kalquorian woman turning away with a sad look on her face. Anrel is often a reminder of the daughters they can’t have. Seeing them always dims my joy for a little while. I feel for them.
Overall, this has been a vacation for the books. I can’t believe it’s over. I can’t believe Oses and Betra leave in a few days.
No. I’m not going to think about that, not until I have to. I insist on enjoying myself and them until the last possible second. I will be happy in the here and now.