Adults only, please…Debunking a myth about The Villages…Fabulous time with visiting friends…Suez Canal photos…

Tugboats accompany each ship as it makes its way through the canal as a precautionary measure in an emergency—fifty ships per day transit through the channel.

Note: Today’s photos are from our sailing through the Suez Canal ten years ago today. See the post here. (Please excuse the spot on the upper right of each photo.

Last night after a homemade dinner of Cashew Chicken with Broccoli and Mushrooms, our friends Karen and Rich joined us in the living room while we engaged in lively conversation, having not seen them since a year ago in March. The conversation veered to the perception that the location where we’re staying at this time, in The Villages Florida, has a reputation as being the “STD capital of the world.”

This perception was created when an article mentioned that a doctor said The Villages had a high incidence of venereal diseases based on rampant sexual activities. It all started like this from this article:

Al-Firdan Bridge is the largest swing, double-cantilever bridge in the world.

Information abounds about how the STD rumor started…

Some say a disgruntled nurse hurled it as an insult. Others believe it began with a joke on a radio station. But most trace it to a 2006 television news story, “Doctors in Retirement Community Seeing Increase in STDs.”

“While statistics aren’t yet reflecting the trend, one physician at the Women’s Center of The Villages said, even in her years working in Miami, she has never seen so many cases,” the since-removed WFTV article reported.

The Women’s Center of The Villages is no longer open. And the doctor was never named.”

Yesterday, on the Garage Logic show on which Tom is mentioned daily when he contributes, “This day in Minnesota history,” the show’s host, Joe Soucheray, said this myth about The Villages, which the hosts of the show shared their opinions that this may be true. That’s how powerful this perception is that The Villages is a “real swinging place for people in their 60s and 70s.” We had no idea about this rumor when we booked the house here.

Mosques were abundant in all the villages we passed along through the canal.

Here’s the link to the podcast from Garage Logic on May 11. If you’d like to hear their hilarious comments, you can fast forward one hour, 15 minutes, and 26 seconds to the exact spot where this is discussed.

Countless myths are flying around the internet about The Village about this topic including:

What do loofahs in The Villages mean?

Residents from the Florida retirement complex the Villages, which The Post reported on in 2009 as being a “wild retirees getaway,” have been caught on video displaying loofahs on their golf carts, allegedly to distinguish their swinging sexual styles.
This is a myth: Residents use loofahs on their golf carts to more easily identify their golf cart when returning to a parking lot at one of the many venues. There are a reported 70,000 golf carts in The Villages.

A ferry was taking off into the canal.

What do gold shoes mean in The Villages?
According to multiple people, wearing gold shoes or letting your shirt tag stick out in the back signals you’re on the prowl.
This is a myth: Often, seniors choose to wear gold or silver shoes or sandals simply for fashion purposes. Besides, gold shoes often are appropriately worn with dress-up or dancing clothes, and such events may be prevalent in The Villages.
What do the colored scrunchies mean in The Villages?
This is a myth: People wear scrunchies to keep their hair out of their eyes and faces. Those with longer hair scrunchies may be worn to match one’s outfit and simply keep their hair out of their faces. While riding in a golf cart, one’s hair blows around (I know this from recent personal experience). Also, many seniors participate in sports in The Villages, particularly golf, and pickleball.

The peninsulas in the Bitter Lakes area were intriguing, with armed soldiers standing on the shore waving at us.

Does the pink flamingo mean a swinging lifestyle?

It used to be a symbol to show your hospitality and morphed from there. Today, the pink flamingo meaning is used as an indicator of a swinging lifestyle. This type of symbol is not as common as the others, but it does exist.
This is a myth: Florida and other tropical climates have used pink flamingos in their yards for decades, probably going back to the 50s. There’s never been a direct link between pink flamingos and a swindling lifestyle.
These are only a few of the misconceptions about life in The Villages. Many more exist. Sure, in any retirement community, coupled with the lack of concern over pregnancy, seniors may enjoy an active sex life among their neighbors and circle of friends and be subject to various STDs. But this is true anywhere in the world, not necessarily only in The Villages.
We’ve heard tales about nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other senior-age communities worldwide that STDs are a common occurrence. We take this information with a grain of salt, knowing regardless of the scenarios here in The Villages, we aren’t candidates for this type of lifestyle.

Two other cruise ships were making the transit during our transit, but most of the ships were well-packed freighters. Later in the afternoon, around 2:30, we stood on our balcony as we began the final exit of the Suez Canal, an experience we will never forget.

Our friends Karen and Rich arrived last evening, and we had a lovely time together. The time has gone so quickly, and soon they must leave to head to Karen’s mom’s house for Mother’s Day weekend. We hope to see them again before we leave Florida in 78 days.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, May 12, 2013:

Shortly after stepping out on the balcony at 5:00 am, we passed under the Friendship Bridge as we sailed through the Suez Canal. For more photos, please click here.

Passage through the Suez Canal…A profound revelation…Tom speaks!

Early this morning we arrived in Safaga, south of the red star as indicated on this map. On Tuesday, we’ll be in Aqaba, southeast of the red star on this map.

It wasn’t merely an experience of real estate, of a narrow waterway, maintained through continuous dredging for over 144 years to provide access for ships from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.  For us, it was so much more. Beginning Sunday morning at 5:00 am, our eyes were transfixed on the long canal, brought to life so long ago. 

Our first early morning view of a town along the Suez Canal, all partially built apartments whereby renters must installs windows and door as floors from the bottom up are rented.
Haze is everywhere from both blowing sand and pollution.
Shortly after stepping out on the balcony at 5:00, we passed under the Friendship Bridge.

Standing on our balcony at precisely the correct moment, amid busily getting dressed for the day, we were enthralled when the massive Friendship Bridge passed over our heads, our camera clicking wildly to get a good shot, none nearly as good as this link.

Please check the link below for details on the relationship between Japan and Egypt in building this suspension bridge, vital to the management of the Suez Canal.

As we witnessed 7 plus hours of the 13 hour transit, whether on our balcony for a few hours or in our perfect placement by the windows in the Windjammer Café, we were reminded of the awe inspiring experience only four months ago of our passage through the Panama Canal. 

Tugboats accompany each ship as it makes its way through the canal as a precautionary measure in the event of an emergency.  Fifty ships per day transit through the canal.
There were 14 tugboats in our immediate area.
These ramps are used for unloading equipment.
These ramps continued to appear at various locations, although we didn’t see any in use.
Al-Firdan Bridge, the largest swing, double-cantilever bridge in the world.

We took this shot of the bridge as it opened for us while having breakfast in the Windjammer Café.

At this point, I can’t say which I enjoyed more. Tom emphatically states, he preferred seeing the Panama Canal, due in part to the better seminars leading up to it on the Celebrity Century and, in his own previous knowledge. 

We assumed this must be military housing along the Suez Canal.
It appears that with the immense population in Middle eastern countries, many live in apartment buildings as opposed to single family homes.  The cost of living is very high in Egypt.
Although these may appear as single family homes, upon closer inspection, we felt certain they were upscale multiple unit dwellings.
Mosques were abundant in all the villages we past along the passage through the canal.
Many areas appeared modern and well developed.

For me, I went into both of them with little knowledge or interest, with only the intent of embracing a whole “new world” in the discovery of their wonder and significance as many ships, over many years made the passage.

A ferry, taking off into the canal.

Yesterday, a new element entered the picture, the literally hundreds of soldiers staggered along the 110 miles of the canal, rifles and machine guns in hand, protecting the rights of passage on the canal, vigorously waving to us as we passed by. 

Slightly more than halfway through the canal, we encountered Great Bitter Lake, a salt water lake a part of the Suez Canal that leads to Small Bitter Lake.
This interesting building was under construction in the Great Bitter Lake area.

They whistled, (Tom whistled back), they cheered, they jumped up and down, mile after mile, expressing sheer joy in seeing a passenger ship as opposed to the hundreds of freighters passing through each year, cold, stark and unfriendly. Many of the passengers stood on our balconies cheering and waving, surprised by the continually enthusiastic reception, milepost after milepost.

The peninsulas in the Bitter Lakes area were intriguing with armed soldiers standing on the shore waving at us.
More soldiers and citizens waving as we sailed by.

As we traveled the streets of Alexandria and Cairo, we experienced the same warm reception from people on the streets, little children in front of rundown hollow houses, and teenagers sitting on a fence by the road as our air conditioned bus flashed by. We couldn’t resist waving back.

Cheerful, friendly teenagers, waving at our bus a few days ago.

Our perception of this part of the world; fraught with fear, prejudice and preconceived notions, perpetrated by the sensationalized 24/7 news, evaporates at the wave of a hand, a friendly smile and a welcoming cheer. 

From time to time, we’d see luxury homes along the shores.

No, this doesn’t make us careless about our safety. It was only two days ago that we wandered about in the area of the Pyramids feeling paranoid and overly cautious with Mohammad, our loyal Uzi armed security guard at our side most of the day. Even us, finding ourselves momentarily afraid of him.

A large mosque on a peninsula in Great Bitter Lake.

No, we won’t let our guard down, not for a moment. But we will, relish in the commonality of the human spirit, to embrace others, to find joy in a simple act of kindness or acceptance wherever we may be, if only in a wave, if only in a smile.

In the poorest of areas, well maintained mosques were easy to spot.

This, is why. This, is why we took this risk, this journey, leaving everything and everyone we knew and loved behind.  We have so much to learn, to understand, and to accept about the world around us, about ourselves and about others.

The barren shore along the Suez Canal.
And perhaps, in a way, we were meant to share a piece of it, however small, with all of our worldwide readers.
During our transit, two other cruise ships were making the transit, but most of the ships were well-packed freighters. Later in the afternoon, around 2:30, we stood on our balcony as we began the final exit of the Suez Canal, an experience we will always remember.

Tom’s take on the above.. “There is evil in the world.  But, overall, 99% of the world’s population are good and law abiding. For example;  anywhere in the world, you can be driving down a two-lane highway at 50 MPH with oncoming traffic and all that is separating life and death is a single dotted white line. That same 99% of the people abide by that line. We’re no more at risk traveling the world than we were on that two-lane highway.”