A Travellerspoint blog

Journey's End

arriving in New York City

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We have indeed gone around the world on this “trip of a lifetime.” All but ten of those who began in Los Angeles on January 5th disembarked at Ft. Lauderdale the last port on the World Cruise, and others came on board to take their place and sail to Southampton. They are curious, these new folks, about what our favorite port was, our best experience, our most interesting excursion. And those questions can’t be answered because all the experiences are related to one another. The best port was Nuku Hiva where we finally set foot on land after a looong trip across the Pacific last January. But then we went to Rangiroa, and the experience of one of these Polynesian islands was colored by being on the other ... and so it went from continent to continent and month to month as we came to recognize the connections between places and experiences. We loved it all and are extraordinarily grateful for this chance to see the whole world together. We are also extremely grateful for the people who shared the journey, those on the ship and those who read this blog and kept in touch. A special pleasure was having our friends Gail and Togo West aboard with us from Capetown to Ft. Lauderdale.

As we began this final segment of the trip, we sailed up the west coast of Africa to countries haunted by the ghosts of the infamous Slave Trade. Along these shores, captives from the African interior were loaded into slave ships and sent on the long journey of no return to the plantations of Brazil, the Caribbean, and America. West Africans still struggle with widespread poverty and political turmoil, yet manage to have solid hope and visible joy. We carried memories of these vibrant people and their history in our hearts on our homeward voyage across the Atlantic. At journey’s end, we were deeply moved to see Lady Liberty still lifting her lamp “beside the golden door.”Arriving in NYC

Arriving in NYC

Posted by HopeEakins 13:34 Archived in USA Comments (4)

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

One foot back home

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We are back on U.S. soil, cleared U.S. customs this morning, can see U.S. Postal Service mailboxes, called our kids without dialing “1” first -- we are at St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, where Americans drive on the left. Whee-hee!

We went to church this morning at 9 am (as the All Saints Anglican Cathedral website says) and found that the service was at 10 am (it was the day after Carnival, so they cancel the early service). Lesson to all churches: if you change a service time you’ve got to let people know! So we walked to the synagogue wanting to see this historic place founded in 1796 (the beautiful building pictured below - included because it is likely the only congregation in the world called “St. Thomas Synagogue.”). It was closed so we trudged back up the hill to the Cathedral, passing charming children in a window with a big green ball that glowed in the sun (also see below).

The Cathedral was established in 1815, burned down, and was rebuilt in 1846 by the labor of freed slaves. These parishioners cut a stone each week and brought it to church on Sundays. Funds being in short supply, they held the stones together with mortar made with molasses. The church was completed in six months and the walls have withstood the destruction of hurricanes ever since then.

The congregation was extraordinarily welcoming to us. We both cried with joy at being with them and worshipping in community for the first time in many months.

Back to the ship, where we had tea with our friends Gail and Togo West and Gail’s childhood friend, Karen Williams (from St. Thomas) who went to Bates with Bill Arata, another cruise guest. Karen’s husband, Wes, now a priest on St. Thomas, taught in the Harvard MBA program and spoke of one of his students who currently owns warehouses along the NJ Turnpike. Jerry Blank, another guest, overheard and came to tells us that he was a good friend of the student’s father. No need to follow along with this narrative; it attempts to illustrate the constant connections that we are finding on our way.

Karen and Wes departed the ship and we then led the ship’s worship at 5:45. This was the 20th and last service for us, and a poignant time. We had no time to be wistful, though, as the altar candlesticks had disappeared because the “religious cupboard” had been tidied up for the perusal of the U.S. ship inspectors. Some things about church never change!

St. Thomas Synagogue

St. Thomas Synagogue

Kids with magic balloon

Kids with magic balloon

St. Thomas Cathedral

St. Thomas Cathedral

Posted by HopeEakins 04:24 Archived in US Virgin Islands Comments (2)

Homily - April 28, 2013

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Homily preached by
The Reverend William J. Eakins
on April 28, 2013
on the Silver Whisper in port at St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

They were ten desperate men. They had leprosy, the dreaded disease of the ancient world, a disease that separated the afflicted from their family and friends and turned them into outcast beggars. Then one lucky day they crossed paths with Jesus and they were healed. Their skin was suddenly clear and whole and they were unclean no longer. All they had to do was show themselves to the priests and they could return home. Imagine their joy and their relief. Life could begin again!

In the midst of the celebration, one former leper left the party to fall at Jesus’ feet and say thank you for what happened. “Were not ten cleansed?” asks Jesus. “Why has only one returned to give thanks to God? Where are th other nine”

What could this Gospel story possibly have to do with us? I am quite sure none of us has leprosy and certainly none of us is a beggar. Most of us I imagine are in relatively good health and we have more than our share of the world’s goods. For weeks and for many of us, for months, we have been traveling in luxury to visit exotic places. We have dropped in for the day to see people who live in circumstances far different and far, far poorer than ours. And then we have been able to escape to this ship and to our air-conditioned cabins and to a choice of dinner in La Terrazza or Hot Rocks.

And now, three charming ports in the Caribbean behind us, many of us are on our way home to resume our comfortable lives with our family and friends. What could WE have in common with ten lepers on a dusty road in Galilee? Surely we are very different from them. And after all, don’t all of us write thank you notes?

Could it be that we too have been blessed by God, and that like the nine cleansed lepers we have gone on our way without giving thanks to the One who has blessed us? It is all too easy to forget that all that we are and all that we have is a gift, something that we have not earned. Why do we have so much when so many have so little? Why are we healthy when so many are sick? Why do we have people who love us when so many are lonely? Do we have plenty because we are smart and work hard? I don’t want to undervalue intelligence and effort, but aren’t there some forces at work here, forces that go beyond ourselves? For example, there is the simple good fortune of being born near the top of the food chain in a land of opportunity. Add to good fortune, the blessing of other people who have helped us along the way. Nobody succeeds in life without others. That truth was emblazoned on the Women’s Day banners in The Gambia last week that proclaimed “Behind every great man is a great woman.” However, what our Christian faith tells us is that behind, beneath, and around ALL of us is a great God, a God who loves us and is always working on our behalf.

How often, we like the nine lepers in the Gospel story, forget to give God thanks for all that we are and all that we have. Thanking God turns good fortune into blessings. And acknowledging how much we have been blessed makes us both humble and grateful. And humility and gratitude keep us from being selfish and self-centered and move us to share with others the gifts that we have been given.

At the end of the Gospel story, Jesus says this to the leper who returned to give thanks: “Get up and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Ten lepers were cleansed; all received this incredible gift. However, only the one who has the insight - the “faith”Jesus calls it - to perceive that GOD has touched his life is made whole restored to the humble, grateful person God intended him to be.

We can go OUR way home from this incredible journey to continue our lives taking for granted all that has happened to us. Or we can fall on our knees and say “Thank you, God” - thank you for all the blessings you have showered upon me. Then we shall go on our way made whole, people filled with humility and profound gratitude.

Posted by HopeEakins 04:19 Archived in US Virgin Islands Comments (0)

Domenica

Almost left behind

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Greetings from Roseau, Domenica, pronounced ROSE’-oh, Do-men-EE’- ka, named by Columbus on his second journey (1493) because he sailed by here on a Sunday (Lord’s day - Dominica). The island is a wild and rugged place of high mountains covered by profuse green plants and clouds on top, a lush rain forest and strong waterfalls. This all comes at a price: the rains wash out the roads from time to time (and they aren’t very good at the best of times).

We drove cross island to the Carib Indian Territory. The Caribs got their name from the Spanish (16th C) who saw the bones in their huts as signs of cannibalism. Not so; the Kalinago had a tribal practice of burying ancestors and later exhuming their bones for transfer to the family dwelling where they were honored. The Spanish dubbed the Kalinago the Canibs for cannibals (and somehow canib morphed into Carib). The Caribs used to live on all the Caribbean Islands but now only about 3,000 are left and they all live here. These folks are eager to preserve their culture and want to be known as Kalinago (their name before the Spanish got it so wrong). The reservation is filled with exotic flowers and taro grinders and Indian huts. We saw an energetic dance and baskets that are quite exquisite.

Then to St. Mary’s Church where the altar is a native canoe set into a base that is painted like the sea. And then to Salton Falls. Whew!! On the half-mile STEEP climb down to the base of the waterfalls, there were only occasional handrails but they collapsed if used and the steps cut into the mountain were in bad repair . We slid and stumbled in 85 degree heat, first down a partially constructed road (big rocks that slid) and then through a rain forest (wet and slippery). We were too exhausted and thirsty to remember that what goes down on excursions must come up. We struggled up and up and up - and got to the ship an hour after we were supposed to sail. Thank God for cell phones that work in rain forests.

Regarding the hymnal for which we were searching yesterday - no time to continue the search. But our organist, Lois Kimball, found a Methodist Church with hymnals - but no copier. A man (pastor?), however, who was at the church, found a copy pasted into a hymnal and removed it for her. Lois made a contribution - man said it was an answer to fervent prayer. Thank God for Methodists.

Domenica coast

Domenica coast

Domnica flower

Domnica flower

Kalinago dancers

Kalinago dancers

Altar boat

Altar boat

Salton Falls, Domenica

Salton Falls, Domenica

Posted by HopeEakins 04:48 Archived in Dominica Comments (1)

Barbados

Almost home

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We have crossed the Atlantic! We arrived in the Barbados sun (and heat) and set off to find a Hymnal for Sunday. Reason: we are running out of Internet minutes (having bought 4 very costly packages) and we can’t use RiteStuff without buying another package; we have acquired an excellent organist and a fine Altar Guilder for the Sunday services, but the organist needs music!). So we trooped to four churches today and discovered the same response at each. “Sorry, Father, but only the choir has hymnals and they are locked up ‘til Sunday. The rest of us know all the tunes.”

After the hymnal hunting, we went to a really fine restaurant on the west coast (Cin-Cin) for lunch and then drove around the island and loved it all. Really loved it a lot!

The photos won't upload, but we bet you can imagine them ... churches and a beach, got it?

Posted by HopeEakins 15:30 Archived in Barbados Comments (0)

Cape Verde

Goodbye to Africa

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Our last stop in Africa was at Mindelo, São Vincente, Cape Verde. Cape Verde is an archipelago of 10 main islands and 5 smaller islands, divided into 2 groups and together covering an area about the size of Rhode Island. Cape Verde, with its clean streets and pastel painted buildings, was a gentle contrast to continental West Africa. The island is volcanic and very arid, so there is little on it above the harbor, save for barren rocky hills, and we were there on a Sunday so EVERYthing was closed.

Now we settle in for the transAtlantic crossing, but it is only four days because we are so far west and we go to Barbados, so far east. So we begin to think of this journey and what it has meant to us. We have a richer and bigger view of this world than we did last December. We have also felt isolated from family and friends - and the world of Hartford, Connecticut, that means so much to us.

-Mindelo harbor

-Mindelo harbor

-former governor's house

-former governor's house

-Farewell to Africa

-Farewell to Africa

Posted by HopeEakins 02:07 Archived in Cape Verde Comments (1)

Homily - April 21, 2013

On weeping

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Homily preached by
The Reverend Hope H. Eakins
on April 21, 2013
on the Silver Whisper in the Atlantic Ocean, leaving Africa

The Gospel story of the Holy Innocents murdered by King Herod occurs in the Christmas story when the Wise Men follow the star to the place where Jesus lay, bringing their gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. King Herod is jealous and threatened by the news that a new king has been born, and so he orders his soldiers to kill all the children who could grow up to threaten his throne. The story is in chapter two of Matthew’s Gospel, the good news of Christmas followed immediately by a massacre of little children. Jesus is born and “Rachel is weeping for her children...because they are no more.”
This has been a week of weeping for some of us. There is weeping over Martin Richard, the 8 year old boy killed in the Boston marathon explosion; like the slaughtered innocents of Bethlehem, Martin is no more. There is weeping over a terrorist attack that brings fear to America once again.
There is weeping over the sad eyes of the African children we have seen this week, children who go hungry, children without health care and education, children whose parents have HIV/AIDS.
There is weeping over the stink of slavery that besmirches us still, evidence of the depths to which we human beings can sink. Thank God for the Bimbia slave port and the Cape Coast Castle and the Elmina Slave Castle because they won’t let us forget how easily we still justify cruelty and brutality and how easily we can ignore it. As you emerge from one of the squalid dungeons at Cape Coast Castle, a church is above you. Right on top of the dank space where thousands were chained, they built a church for people to say their prayers. What did they think they were doing there? They were Christians for heaven’s sake, they were Christians who must have heard that Jesus came to set us free! Didn’t they hear Jesus say “love your enemies” and “love one another as I have loved you;” didn’t they read commandments like, “Thou shalt not kill?”

There is weeping in the world today, and I believe that this is a good thing because weeping is a gift from God, I believe that God wants us to weep because weeping means that our hearts have been moved, that we care, that we cry with the pain of seeing something too big for us to fix all alone, without God and without each other, so we need God and we need each other. Weeping means that we are not running away from the poverty or thinking that thicker walls and better security can stop terrorism or that slavery is a thing of the past. Weeping means that we stand in the place of pain; we stand in the place of pain and feel it so much that we will start to work on the audacious task of healing the world.

For when we stop weeping and pull ourselves together, we find that we are changed by the weeping, changed into people who are more compassionate and more concerned. We become more aware of the blessings that are ours, more thankful for their abundance, and we figure out that there’s enough of everything to go around and that we have enough to share. Our weeping also serves another purpose - it connects us with all of those who have wept because their children are no more, with the mothers and fathers of the Holy Innocents and the slave women whose sons were wrenched away from them and the African mothers who watch their children starve, and the American parents who are afraid when their children go to school because so many students have been killed by guns purchased by people who have no right to bear arms.

When we stop weeping and remember why we wept, we start trying to make the world a better place. We remember what our mothers told us, the simple lessons:
Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you and
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Because if we don’t remember, the weeping will never stop.

When Matthew ends the Gospel story of the Holy Innocents, he quotes the prophet Jeremiah who first told the story of Rachel weeping for her children. It is a story of absolute anguish set in a story of absolute hope. God understands our anguish. God says, “your hurt is incurable, your wound is grievous, Rachel is weeping for her children because they are no more.” And then says the Lord, “I will restore health to you and your wounds I will heal. Out of your cities will come the sounds of merrymakers and you will be my people and I will be your God. I will give you a future with hope.”

Posted by HopeEakins 12:30 Comments (1)

The Gambia

The Smiling Coast

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The Gambia is a slice of another country; it is cut right out of the middle of Senegal in a wedge around The Gambia River. In some places it is a mere 7 miles wide, the oddest way to draw a political boundary you can imagine. We docked in Banjul where the landmark is the July 22 Arch that commemorates a bloodless coup in 1994 (not a very impressive monument or coup, I think). We took the ship’s shuttle bus into town, driving by places of incredible poverty as well as by the Presidential Residence. Over a portico on the latter hung a banner, Behind Every Great Man is a Great Woman. Women seem to be greatly revered here and they should be. They work hard while carrying babies with them everywhere; they are dressed in stunning textiles and headdresses; they have excellent posture because they carry things on their head most of the time. Most speak excellent English and seem to form a kind of instant bond of sisterhood. The Gambia is called The Smiling Coast - why I don’t know - and its people do smile a lot when they talk to you. We spent much time in the Albert Market where men are hard at work sewing on treadle machines and upholstery tables and women arrange their vegetables and fish. It feels more crowded and vibrant than other west African markets, although just as odorous. Young men called bumsters* crowd around tourists seeking to be guides, intermediaries, interpreters - and get paid for it. Bumsters are hard to fend off; we almost wanted to engage one in order to discourage the rest of the pack. At one turning in this immense market, a bumster told us that we were off track and in a dangerous place. Advertising his services or being genuinely helpful? We didn’t know, but we left. There were no taxis anyplace, and we didn’t want to walk further to the museum, so we took the shuttle back to the ship where another huge market had been set up on the pier.

In the talk on The Gambia by the ship’s shore concierge, he showed a slide entitled “Bumsters v. Cougars,” a photo of older female tourists who had been romanced by young Gambian men, apparently a local scheme. Now we have left continental Africa to begin the journey across the Atlantic. As we listen to the news of Boston, we are aware that we are returning home to a place that isn’t the same as when we left it. Presidential residence

Presidential residence

Tailor shop

Tailor shop

Upholstery shop

Upholstery shop

Onion sellers

Onion sellers

Fish market

Fish market

Gambian women and gourds

Gambian women and gourds

The market from our window

The market from our window

My friend Fatima on the pier

My friend Fatima on the pier

Posted by HopeEakins 11:44 Archived in Gambia Comments (0)

Ghana

A place that brings tears

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Ghana has a higher ranking that most other African countries on all the scales that apply. It has less crime and corruption, more education and freer elections, a higher standard of living, better health care - and, oh dear God, it is poor and dirty and it breaks your heart. Yes, the roads are well built, but few cars travel on them. Yes, most people are not starving, but the women carry water jugs every day because there is no running water. Yes, they have a thriving local industry in fish and in salt, but look below at the harbor and the salt pans. The GDP in purchasing power is $1363, #18 out of the 53 African countries.

Not only is the view of Takoradi (where we docked) depressing, but we went from there to the Cape Coast and the Elmina Slave Castles where we had to face the enormity of suffering that human beings can inflict on each other and the knowledge that the world is still not free of slavery. Cape Coast is actually a kind of pretty place, a large white compound and fort built by the Portuguese on the coast. Some of the chambers were used as storerooms, and others for slave storage. We stepped inside them and saw the single air vent, the trench for waste, the slot through which “food” was brought to the forty or fifty or hundred people crammed within. There were dungeons and cells where slaves were put to die and a long dark corridor to the gate of no return where they were loaded onto boats. At Elmina, we stood in the courtyard where women were chosen for rape and we climbed the stairs up which they walked for the event. It all made no sense. Why would the slavers not keep their “products” in better condition - and then the answer: because weak, sick slaves couldn’t rebel. It was a somber time in those dungeons, facing the evil that seemed to be there still.

We came out into the sun, at the corner of the building; stairs led up to the second floor where there was a chapel. A CHAPEL?????? Above the men’s dungeon?????? What could they have been thinking? What kind of prayers did they say? Did they pray for compassionate hearts before they went to whip the next batch of slaves? Who led those services? WHAT could he have been thinking? We got an answer to that question because his grave was there in the sun, in a place of honor. He was a Ghanian native who went to seminary in England before returning to serve at the Cape Coast church. The church is used today for a children’s library. It was too much to bear. I began to weep and couldn’t stop.

Where is there any hope? Strangely it is seen in the hovels that line the roads. These open air one-room spaces that often serve both as homes and businesses bear signs with names like:
Glory to God Beauty Salon
Thank You Jesus Fashion Center
With God All Things are Possible Beauty Salon
By His Grace Cell Phones
Humble Work Furniture
God is King Tailoring
The Lord is My Sheperd Fashion Home

Ghanians believe in the power of names. God bless them all.

Cape Coast Castle

Cape Coast Castle

Cape Coast castle dungeon

Cape Coast castle dungeon

Door of no return

Door of no return

Elmina slave castle

Elmina slave castle

Ghanian woman and child

Ghanian woman and child

Fishing village

Fishing village

Ghanian woman and child

Ghanian woman and child

Salt pans

Salt pans

With God All's Possible

With God All's Possible

Thank you Jesus Fashion center

Thank you Jesus Fashion center

Be humble to God barber

Be humble to God barber

Jesus boat

Jesus boat

Posted by HopeEakins 00:58 Archived in Ghana Comments (0)

Homily - April 14, 2013

on slavery

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Homily preached by
The Reverend William J. Eakins
on April 14, 2013
aboard the Silver Whisper in the South Atlantic

We are sailing along a dangerous coast, dangerous not because of the pirates against whom our Captain has put the ship on high alert, but because of the history of these shores as the slave coast. From the 16th through the 19th century an estimated 2-3 million African men, women, and children were captured and brought to the slave coast’s castles, like the ones in Ghana some of us will see tomorrow. In these fortresses, captives were herded as animals, sold as slaves to traders, loaded into ships, and sent off on the long voyage across the Atlantic to spend the rest of their lives in hard labor on the plantations of Brazil, the caribbean, and the American South. A large percentage of these people never survived the journey.

The memory of human suffering that haunts these waters and coastlands is poignant and shameful indeed. It should serve as a warning of the inhumanity of which we human beings are still capable. It is a sad fact that slavery still exists today. Estimates of the number of slaves in the world today range from 12 to 27 million. Most of these are people in southeast Asia living in bondage to pay off indebtedness sometimes over the course of several generations. There are also the millions of women and children enslaved in prostitution by the sex industry. Also, there are increasing reports of illegal immigrants in American cities who are enslaved as domestic workers.

Human bondage, however, extends far beyond physical servitude. Bondage takes many forms. Addicts are enslaved to drugs; alcoholics to the bottle. Others are shackled to bitter memories, to regrets or to shame. Some are so afraid of what might happen to them or what others might say about them if they were to be really known that they are helpless to face the future, locked in by the status quo. Some people are so afraid of dying that they are not free to live. These are just some of the many kinds of slavery that weigh down and enchain the human spirit. I imagine that there is not a person here this morning who does not have some acquaintance of them.

The good news for all in bondage is that God is the Great Liberator. “Let my people go” is God’s command and God’s mission in every age. “I have seen the misery of my people...I have heard their cry.” So God raised up Moses to deliver the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt to lead them into the land of promise, a good and broad land flowing with milk and honey. And in the fullness of time, God in mercy sent Jesus to set people free everywhere. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” Jesus proclaimed “he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives ... to let the oppressed go free. That was just what Jesus spent his life doing - setting people free, free from sickness and fear, free from shame and hostility, free from meaninglessness and despair, free to live their lives with peace, joy, and purpose. The continuation of this liberating mission is the great work that Christ has entrusted to the church.

It is daunting to consider what might be done to put an end to the continuing problem of human bondage.

How can we set free the millions of slaves that are in the world today. It is an overwhelming task, yet it is astonishing what can be done by those who, like Moses, know that God is on their side. William Wilberforce, inspired by his Christian faith, was almost single-handedly responsible for putting an end to slavery in the British Empire. Some of you may have heard how the extraordinary “Free the Girls” project is liberating hundreds of African woman today from the bondage of prostitution.

How can an addict ever be set free from bondage to drugs or an alcoholic from bondage to drink? Chemical dependency is a powerful slave master. Yet those who have learned to “let go and let God” testify that with God’s help, the glorious freedom of sobriety is indeed possible.

How can people who are estranged from each other ever find a way to escape the past and build bridges that lead to a better future? The task is indeed formidable. Yet God promises “behold, I make all things new” and those who trust God discover that old hurts can be forgiven.

As God said to Moses, “I have observed the misery of my people ...; I have heard their cry ... I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them.”

And as Zechariah responded, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free.”

Posted by HopeEakins 09:26 Comments (0)

Cameroon

Hot, poor, corrupt - and with glimmers of hope

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Cameroon is hot hot hot hot hot hot hot hot hot hot. The temperatures climbed to over 100 degrees and the humidity is about 85% and since there’s not much electricity, there is little air conditioning and running water and there’s a lot of jungle. The average income is about $1500/year and the government is corrupt and the roads are often impassable and the small Anglophone provinces hate the larger Francophone provinces and yet ... we are VERY glad we were able to come here.

One thing the corrupt government has done is to make much of the land into banana, tea, and rubber plantations. Apparently they don’t pay the workers very much, but they provide housing and productive work, and the land that is agriculturally developed is beautiful. We left the port of Limbe to visit the Tiko Banana Plantation (Hope loves factory tours) driving through miles of banana trees to a small set of buildings that receive hands (large bunches) of bananas that are slid along on metal conveyor racks that stretch through the fields. So (see pix below) little banana fingers grow on huge stalks that terminate in a mammoth (2 foot) gorgeous purple flower. The hands are all (maybe a million of them) tagged individually by hand to mark their age. When they are big enough, each hand is covered with blue plastic to keep insects from them. When ripe they are chopped down by hand, and carried to the conveyor rack and pulled by hand into a shed where workers wash them down, cull any with brown spots on the skin, cut them into bunches, pack them in boxes and load them onto a truck which drives to the port and ships them to markets in France and Belgium. The rejects are sold locally or made into chips. We really appreciate each banana we see now.

On our way to the Bimbia Slave Port, the road was impassable so we made a detour through the regional capital of Buea. Some of the middle class housing is pictured below. Really, these are not shanties but residences in the capital city. Cameroon is poor poor poor poor poor poor, and you cannot be there without wanting to help and not knowing how to help. Same thing with the slave port - you want to work to change something, fix something, make up for the inhumanity of chaining human beings to walls and selling them. You want to know what we are doing today that will horrify someone in 200 years and make them wonder how we could have been so self-serving and compassionless.

The slave port was a hard excursion physically and emotionally. We drove in a bus, transferred to 4x4s because the roads were poor and drove for 20 minutes which felt like 200 minutes as we jerked and rolled and lost ground and backed up and tried to make the climb again and again. Then we walked downhill about a mile through a bamboo jungle seeing the traces of the slave quarters, the office where the deals were made, the trough to which the slaves were chained and finally the cove where ships came to transport them away from their home. In the guides’ descriptions and in our conversations it was easy to call the people “slaves” as though they were a commodity, instead of speaking of the PEOPLE who were captured and enchained. Maybe calling them people makes us too ashamed. There was much to consider as we walked back uphill in the jungle heat.

Then lunch in a botanical garden with a show of wild native dancing that included bowls of burning hallucinogens and chewed herbs (to give the dancers strength, they said) and time at a wildlife refuge center, necessary because the Cameroonians eat bush meat (why? 1) tradition, 2) no cost and they are poor, 3) they like the taste). So locals hunt gorillas and chimps and duikers and bush bucks and leave the little ones orphaned or wounded - and the refuge center cares for them.

In our very brief experience, Cameroon is a “typical” West African country - poor, hot, and corrupt. Yet something here won our hearts. Maybe it was the way they cared for the slave port as a part of history that must be preserved. Or maybe it was the multiple nurseries along the roads, selling small shrubs and flowering plants and the little gardens lovingly planted - people who do landscaping have patience and hope and those values are both essential to progress in this country. Surely it was the way they cleaned up the garbage; even the poorest shacks have tidy dirt “yards” around them and the streets are free of trash.

Baby bananas

Baby bananas

Banana flower with hand

Banana flower with hand

Banana flower

Banana flower

Bananas on their way to the plant

Bananas on their way to the plant

Buea old town

Buea old town

Buea residence

Buea residence

Buea signs

Buea signs


On the way to Bimbia slave port

On the way to Bimbia slave port

Bimbia slave quarters

Bimbia slave quarters

Port of no return

Port of no return

Cameroon dancers

Cameroon dancers

Dancer _getting strength_

Dancer _getting strength_

Rescued gorilla

Rescued gorilla

Posted by HopeEakins 07:45 Archived in Cameroon Comments (1)

São Tomé and Príncipe

On to the next port

sunny 95 °F
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São Tomé, the capital city of the country São Tomé and Príncipe, is a sad place. The roads and walks and buildings are broken; the people are in your face making demands for $; the market is more crowded and dirty than other African markets. The stats are discouraging too: GDP is $1500; literacy rate is 66%, and they had a civil war following independence from Portugal. No wonder they aren’t singing and dancing here! Yet people in other places beset by the same problems do “sing and dance” and try to practice their English and enjoy having a photo taken of them (and want to see how it turns out) and are helpful and smile and laugh. Maybe it is because it is so hot here. We are on top of the equator and the temp got over 100° and the humidity 85%.

We are also on the edge of a time zone so last night we turned the clock one hour back, tonight we’ll turn it one hour ahead, and then the next night back again.

Meanwhile life on the ship is great. We play Trivia almost every day with about 80 people; the current lecturers are really excellent; the entertainers are top notch, and we are reading James McBride’s fine book, The Color of Water. Our congregation is growing; we appreciate having a real church organist (Lois Kimball, who plays the keyboard) and an Altar Guilder (Jane Cline); we have done some pastoral work from time to time.
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Posted by HopeEakins 11:59 Archived in Sao Tome and Principe Comments (1)

Namibia

A nice surprise

sunny 61 °F

Docking at Walvis Bay’s industrial harbor didn’t promise much. We took the shuttle bus into town, passing middle class houses with attractive little gardens but no one in them. Once in town we walked on its eight streets past shops and restaurants and churches shut up tightly. It looked like the Rapture had indeed come and sucked every living creature - and every car and truck - from the place. The Nokia store was about the only one with a window display - of hookahs. Apparently it is too cold for folks to go out now and folks stay inside on Sundays.

At 5:15 we set out in busses and 4x4s for the dunes, huge sweeping hills of sculptured sand. And someplace in the desert we stopped beside silk tents and walked toward African women singing and ululating, trays of champagne, camels available for rides, a national chorus singing moving anthems, and teens playing marimbas. Some of us climbed up the dunes and stood silhouetted against the sky, and as the sun fell behind the dunes, the luminaria that covered them were lit as were the fires in pits surrounded by pillows. During dinner with our friends Gail and Togo West who joined the cruise in Cape Town fire twirlers twirled. A weirdly empty town followed by a magnificently full desert...

The next day we took a small boat from the harbor to the ocean. The captain, Sanel, was an intelligent kind naturalist (the only blonde sea captain in the port, she says) who knows her animals by name. Up close we saw pink pelicans, Nelson, the gull who is Sanel’s co-captain, seals, two kinds of dolphin, and terns and birds galore. Junior, the seal, came on board to get his fish and a pat; Sanel called the pelicans, including Lady Gaga, in the air and they swooped down to get fed too. We had a feast of fresh oysters, oryx sandwiches, hard boiled eggs and chocolates. It was wonderful!!

Namibia -climbing dunes

Namibia -climbing dunes

Namibia with luminaria

Namibia with luminaria

Namibia - Junior on board for breakfast

Namibia - Junior on board for breakfast

Posted by HopeEakins 06:06 Archived in Namibia Comments (1)

Capetown, South Africa

Contrasts and contrasts and contrasts

sunny 77 °F
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One of the questions posed to World Cruisers is “Which is your favorite port?” Really! Which is your favorite child? We have loved everyplace we have been and learned from each of them. Especially, we appreciate the gift of being able to circumnavigate in experience as well as geography, giving us a sense of the vastness of the world as well as its connections.

That all being said, I wish I could live long enough to see South Africa grow into the hopes surrounding it. I wish I could be a part of making the dreams of this place come true. This is an astounding nation, a country that is taking a great risk, a little miracle of bridge building in our world, a model for all nations, a place that cooked up the idea of keeping “truth and reconciliation” in tension and continues to work at both of those things.

We were only in South Africa a week, only went to four ports and spent two days in the Cape Winelands. We have seen the contrasts and the aching poverty and read the warnings of possible violence. But yet there is a real possibility of diverse peoples living together in harmony, a chance of shared resources here - mainly because people are talking about it.

Cape Town is the place where racial balance is greatest and where there are signs of socio-economic leveling. One of our guides spoke of the huge successes in this nation and then, sadly, of governmental corruption, of police who don’t protect the people so private security firms have to, of a culture of dependency developing for people receiving government aid, of the black population receiving benefits somehow being only a small minority of those with need.

Visitors to a country can’t possibly discern what’s really going on there, but here’s what we saw in our time in Cape Town:
a fabulously beautiful city. Sailing into this harbor with Table Rock behind the city is one of the great travel experiences of all time. Cape Town is sparkling, growing, bustling; people are friendly. The Victoria and Albert Waterfront is a great mix of shopping and entertainment and housing and hotels, surrounded by harbor restaurants - all have a holiday feel and all are well integrated racially, if not socio-economically.
St. George’s Anglican cathedral where Archbishop Desmond Tutu led a demonstration of 300,000 of South Africa’s “rainbow people” in 1989. Beneath the pulpit sits a stone construction of the empty tomb; on the south wall a large window depicting Christ in triumph over Evil and Darkness.
The views!!! from Table Rock and the cable car going to it. Wow! Wow! And there beneath the city sits Robben Island, always visible, a reminder that this is the place where political prisoners were incarcerated - Nelson Mandela for 18 years, the current president (Zuma) among so many others.
Housing. We drove mile after mile of roads where fences with barbed wire surround each suburban house, and we saw acres after acres of shanties patched together from pieces of corrugated metal. The shanty dwellers are uneducated people from the country who have come to the city to get jobs. There are none. And yet South Africa exports an abundance of natural resources for processing and then imports the finished goods. Seems like they could train folks in manufacturing skills .... Or put resources into the country villages... Or... This is not an insoluble problem.
Next to these informal settlements are acres of low income housing built by the government in the last 15 years, tidy little houses crammed together, nowhere enough of them but a sign of hope. Interestingly, in our brief drive-by, the women of the shanty towns were collecting garbage and putting it in bags for pick-up buy the highway. The garbage in the area around government housing was often piled up by the houses. Also interesting - in many places the small plots of land around the government supplied housing are filled with “informal” shanties.

In huge contrast to the settlements was our trip to Stellenbosch. First stop: Franschhoek, a charmingly and beautiful town north of Cape Town. In the church a quintet was rehearsing Schubert’s Trout for an evening concert; on the streets were upscale shops and restaurants; in the background were gorgeous mountains and an elegant flower garden around the Huguenot memorial. Next to the Allée Bleue Estate, for an elegant picnic lunch and wine tasting under umbrellas on the lawn. And then on to our hotel, Majeka House, where we had our own villa with living room, dining room, and study with its second floor windows facing the mountains, and a bedroom with dressing room and sitting room, veranda and private pool. The contrasts with the settlements couldn’t be greater. That evening we went to the Dieu Donné Wine Estate for a World cruise gala dinner. As dusk descended, we had drinks on a terrace overlooking the mountains. An African band played; men walked around with owls and peregrine falcons; women walked around in costumes on stilts; teenagers danced stomps. The table flowers at dinner were huge protea; dancing followed dinner --- and the contrasts were great.

We want to come back.

Approaching Cape Town and Table Mountain

Approaching Cape Town and Table Mountain

From the Table Mountain cable car

From the Table Mountain cable car

Empty tomb at St. George's, Cape Town

Empty tomb at St. George's, Cape Town

Government housing in Capetown

Government housing in Capetown

An informal settlement in Cape Town

An informal settlement in Cape Town

Posted by HopeEakins 05:13 Archived in South Africa Comments (2)

Homily - April 7, 2013

Preached at an African liturgy at sea

sunny 61 °F
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Homily preached by
The Reverend Hope H. Eakins
on April 7, 2013, the Second Sunday of Easter
at an African liturgy aboard the Silver Whisper in the South Atlantic

Worship on the SIlver Whisper is a little different today. We have hymns from South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, and drums of many kinds; the Creed will affirm our belief in “Jesus who was always on safari doing good.” Things are very different from what we are used to, and at the same time, very familiar because all Christians worship the one God and Father of us all who sent Jesus to come among us as a Good Shepherd. “I lay down my life for the sheep,” he said “....so there will be one flock, one shepherd."

The flock to which Jesus calls us is not an institution but a community, and living in community is not an easy thing to do. We like the idea of a Good Shepherd who will call us by name, like the Silversea crew; we like having a shepherd who will lay down his life for us, but we don’t like being in a flock very much because then we are just part of a herd and because some sheep always wander off and get to be black sheep, and then the Good Shepherd leaves ninety-nine of us behind to go and rescue the one who has strayed, and bring it home because, he says, sheep belong in a flock.

The early Christians took their flock, took their community, very seriously. It was where they prayed and where no one was ever in need because they shared what they had. Like all Christian communities, it was also a place where people disagree and sometimes hurt each other, but they stay together because they can disagree and still love each other; they can disagree since they all belong to one family.

We are a little Christian flock here on this ship not because we have the same heritage or traditions or agree about everything. What makes us a flock is whose sheep we are. Jesus didn't say that any particular tradition or doctrine or people was the way, the truth, or the life. He said that he was and by following him we become his flock.

To be a Christian community then means that we follow the Good Shepherd and care for each other on our way. It means that when we are tempted to think we are the gatekeepers of God’s Kingdom and decide who’s in and who’s out, we remember we are not the ones who are supposed to decide because God sent Jesus Christ to do that for us. It means that when we see our brothers and sisters segregated into townships beside the road, or townships anywhere separated by class or gender or race or economic condition, we start working to break down the walls and open the gates because God’s Kingdom is big enough to hold us all. It means that we start sharing what we have because we are only as strong as the weakest of us. It means that we care for the earth because it belongs to every one. It means we love each other with all our hearts because ultimately we are all one flock with one Shepherd.

Posted by HopeEakins 02:34 Archived in Namibia Comments (1)

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