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Rita   World Cruise 1996   Ship Stories   Milan & Memory Repression   USSR 1980  
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My stories

One of the most extraordinary encounters in my sailing career was on my first cruise as Cruise Sales Manager aboard the Sagafjord. I hosted a table in the dining room and we had a wonderful group of eight that made dinner each evening a delightful affair. However, one couple left the ship after only four days, leaving a vacancy at the table. My friend, Shirley Zuffinetti, informed me there was a young woman, who wanted to join us, but Shirley asked me to please not allow it - she just couldn't eat at the same table with Rita....


1996 was the single most memorable year of my life and the first three months were almost outside the realm of reality. I worked as Cruise Sales Manager on the Sagafjord through the 1995 Christmas cruise, and was scheduled to go on leave afterwards for six weeks. I had planned to have a relaxing winter, including a few weeks visiting friends in Switzerland. Just prior to the end of the cruise Meredith, the other CSM, resigned suddenly, leaving us scrambling to fill the position for the world cruise. I could not merely extend my contract, as I had flights and arrangements for Switzerland in January. I agreed to stay on a few extra days and train Yvonne, the social hostess, to fill in as CSM until I could rejoin the ship in February. To add to the turmoil, the last day of the cruise we got word from the Cunard home office that our beloved Sagafjord would be retired the following September. I was heartsick. I spent the first two days of the world cruise with Yvonne, frantically trying to cram weeks of training into 48 hours, so she could fill in until I returned, then I flew home from St. Thomas....

In January 1989 I joined the M/S Sagafjord for a 3-month world cruise. That was the beginning of 10 years at sea with Cunard Line including stints in the tour office and as Cruise Sales Manager. During that time I compiled a collection of stories and humorous questions that I remember with relish.

In 1995 I set up a short tour in Yellowstone and Teton National Parks for three fellows from Slovakia who were traveling in the United States to celebrate their 50th birthdays. I had met Milan Kapusta two years earlier when he was attending a conference at Montana State University and I guided a day tour to Yellowstone. He fell in love with the park and had raved to his family and friends back home about the area.

Cold War. Soviet Bear. Iron Curtain. KGB. These words hardly bring a shiver anymore, but back in 1980, at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was a daunting place to visit. I had spent a year in Poland in 1976/77 and in spite of the difficulties presented by a socialist society, there certainly were many positive experiences in my time there. Now in June of 1980, I was headed to Big Brother for 3 weeks with friends Michael Buckwalter and Ken Shenk, both of which had grown up as missionary kids in Japan, and Wayne Lehman, who was only with us the first four days in Leningrad.

Nestled high in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, is an isolated little village with no electricity or running water. But Santa Matilde is somewhat of a Shangri-La, enjoying a moderate climate because of its 8,000-foot elevation, high above the Sonoran Desert below. My adventure in Santa Matilde was actually about as likely as finding a real Shangri-La.

In September 1976 I went to Poland on an exchange program through Mennonite Central Committee and the Polish Agricultural Department. One other American, Scott Coates, and I worked on a state farm for a year and had a wonderful time getting to know the Polish people, their culture and language. Neither of us spoke any Polish when we arrived and no one on the farm spoke English. At the beginning we struggled to communicate while learning the language. Some things were easy enough to understand; like when they asked if we smoke (no), or if we drink (no), or if we . . . . (no!).

In 1984 Los Angeles hosted the Summer Olympic Games. The National Park Service decided to have a presence there and selected ten multi-lingual rangers to staff NPS information centers in the three Olympic Villages. I was thrilled to be chosen and was placed in the UCLA Olympic Village where I was paid to talk with athletes from around the world about national parks, America, apple pie, or about any other subject they wished to discuss. Being a true-blooded Montanan, I was not exactly looking forward to spending two months in Los Angeles, but I was excited to be part of the Olympics. As it turned out, during the entire games the weather was great, traffic was less than normal, people were in a good mood, and I decided I loved the beach! Maybe Los Angeles wasn't so bad after all.

Mullet Cousins Europe Trip 1987 - The Very Detailed and Explicit Journal of Gladys Kauffman For the Enjoyment and Memory Recall of Fellow Passengers Edited for Accuracy, Length, and Decency by Kent Kauffman....


I used to think of angels as celestial beings, who had little relevance to us mortals here on earth. That changed the Sunday in 1990 that Claudia Wegley related an experience she had in Singapore. Claudia has a simple, uncluttered faith that allows God to work in ways that others might just scoff at.

Poems & Miscellaneous

Since the early 80's I have been sending out an annual Christmas letter in similar format; a sheet of paper folded in fourths, a cover photo and back photo with a summary of the year inside. Here are the text portions of those letters back through 1985. I am missing 1987 and letters before 1985. If any of you Christmas card 'savers' who have been receiving my letters all these years have a copy somewhere, I'd be happy to borrow them!