A Travellerspoint blog

East London, South Africa

Xhosa Village

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Well, to be honest, yesterday’s excursion to Phe Zulu was a little hokey. The Zulus who enacted the dramas and dances looked quite bored, and the huts looked like they were theme park rejects. So when we set off to the Xhosa village today we weren’t very optimistic. We were mightily surprised! This village was authentic - dung on the ground and all, and we were welcomed by an enthusiastic group of kids of 10-14 years and tribal elders. Everyone makes heartfelt music here, beating drums, lining out melodies that get filled with rich harmony. Everyone dances here, feet pounding and bodies swirling. They danced welcome dances and interpretative dances and farewell dances across the field and in the huts, and they served us a meal cooked in another hut. Men and women were separated into their own huts (see Bill in 1st photo below) and told stories (men about circumcision practices and women about infertility cures). Khaya La Bantu (The Peoples Place) was established by two brothers, South African natives, who are deeply committed to the Xhosa, both to providing housing/education/opportunity and also to preserving their traditions.

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Posted by HopeEakins 09:40 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Durban

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I am having a hard time figuring out the reality of South Africa. We sailed into Durban and checked the attractive tourist map of the city. Headed “Durban. The Warmest Place to Be,” one of its panels has 16 safety tips. These include:
Avoid wearing jewelry, watches or designer shades.
Be extra careful at ATMs.
Grasp bags firmly under your arms.
Don’t let strangers get too close to you - especially people in groups.
Don’t carry a camera openly in the city.
If you are accosted, remain calm and be co-operative.

We drove through this city, and it is attractive but empty in parts (is it possible that the tourist map may have scared everyone away?). There was very little traffic on the street. Downtown Durban has been deserted by white merchants now departed to suburban malls, and the very large market we saw downtown was beneath highway off/on ramps and consisted of stalls where Zulus sold tribal medicines and bones.

So we drove on and passed Kato Township, an area that Bill saw in 1994 - a black shanty town without electricity save for tall searchlights over the shacks. He was delighted to see it now filled with attractive new housing - apparently for the black middle class population. More confusion - in two recent conversations, I asked about the fencing and barbed wire seemingly around every house. It looks like folks live in prison grounds. Conversation #1: Me: “Who’s afraid of whom? Are there no integrated neighborhoods?” “ALL housing is integrated today, she declared. Why the barbed wire then? “Well, some silly people are just nervous.” Conversation #2: Me: “Why so much barbed wire and fencing?” Second Guide: “Oh, that’s just because the insurance companies make you install it; the people would never do it if they didn’t have to.” Hmmmmmmm. Seems to us that 40% unemployment and a huge dichotomy between haves and have-nots might be a consideration too.

Then to The Valley of a Thousand Hills, beautiful, rolling, magnificent land that stretches across a remarkable and vast landscape. There we visited Phe Zulu, a Zulu village that maintains and interprets Zulu traditions. Folks in native dress demonstrated kitchen utensils, courtship practices, beer making (dreadful stuff we swigged from a common pottery bowl ... not that we have anything against a common cup), followed by a walk through crocodile land and the snake pit. Hope bowed out of the latter.

Then back to the ship for sail away. The pilot was again picked up by helicopter, and we took copious photos of him being caught by the strop and raised up against the Durban skyline (all the pix look like red and white blurs). The pilot dipped and swooped and buzzed us as he left. Our former RAF pilot neighbor said that all pilots like to show off.

Durban Zulu market

Durban Zulu market

Zulu warrior

Zulu warrior

Zulu kitchen

Zulu kitchen

Posted by HopeEakins 23:09 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

Worship and Richards Bay

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It was a good plan. Sunrise was at 6:01 am in Richards Bay, South Africa. At 6, we’d be pulling into port, facing west, so the Sunrise Service was scheduled for the terrace behind Deck 8, facing east. We had Jane, a loyal Altar Guilder, to set up; the services were printed; Bill was preaching; the ship‘s calendar had advertised the event well; I had downloaded and printed Jesus Christ is Risen Today and He Is Risen and Come Ye Faithful; we had had a choir rehearsal. The ship had arranged for a keyboard and extension cord and God sent Lois, a Lutheran church organist, to play. Farida, the receptionist extraordinaire volunteered to call us at 5, so we wouldn’t be nervous about a wake-up alarm. What could go wrong????

We found out at 5:40 when the phone rang and Fernando, the cruise director, explained that the harbor was too rough for a pilot to get aboard (harbor pilots always join the ship to give info about local currents, etc., and they come alongside in pilot boats and hop into the ship.), so he would have to be dropped from a helicopter onto the ship, so the aft portion of the ship had been cordoned off for safety (and security, as South Africa is very edgy about it). So here’s what happened:

-- Ship puts non-fluent sailor to block the way to Deck 8, and as people arrive, he tells them “no-go” and they see the yellow tape and hear the helicopter and get very very nervous.
-- Keyboard stand and chair arrive in the Observation Lounge (to which we have been moved) but no keyboard. That comes at 10:10, but it has an American plug (straight pins) and the sockets are all European (round pins).
-- We start the service outside in semi-darkness and the sun pierces the clouds and all the assorted and diverse voices say “The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!” and it is a moment of exquisite beauty until the non-religious folks start arriving - with their cameras - not to find Jesus but to see the helicopter.

And this is very likely just like the first Easter with soldiers and gardeners and women running around in the early morning and changes of plans and confusions --- and besides the intro to next year’s sermon is already in place.

After “church” we went to a Zulu game preserve. We’ve seen animals in zoos before - and even animals in new cage-free zoos, but we have never been in a Range Rover traveling over the animals’ habitats. Wow! We never want to go to a zoo again. We saw zebras and giraffes and kudu and impalas and nyalas and rhinos (see birds living on the head of one) and hippos and wildebeests and many birds - and even dung beetles (the latter never go hungry in this place). The vastness of the place and the proximity of the animals and the excellence of the gamesmen all made it an incredible day.

Rhino with birds

Rhino with birds

Zebra at Nyala Park

Zebra at Nyala Park

Posted by HopeEakins 22:57 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

Mozambique

A developing country...

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We’ve reached Africa! Maputo is a surprising city of contrasts (see photos below). We took a little open air hop-on/hop-off train, but the driver wouldn’t let us hop-off without him, because he said it wasn’t safe if we didn’t know the city. So the event was really a long tour, during which we saw a museum with a wall of elephant fetuses, a Roman Catholic Cathedral whose statuary was made of old MK-47s, a railway station designed by Gustave Eiffel (and in bad repair), the beautiful Central Market where we bought the best cashews ever (the nut roaster seemed to be related to the train driver), the fort (cannons), the iron house (another Eiffel design, apparently a little warm inside given the climate!) After many stops, we came home via the ocean road, beautiful - but --- the streets are covered with garbage, the long balustrade along the shorefront was smashed every few feet, and the mosaic wall beside the road was damaged. Closer to the ship, we drove through the government district where one Ministry follows the next. These are nice modern buildings in need of much repair and identified by big signs in Portuguese as Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, etc. All easy to translate until we got to the Ministry of Corruption. But no, it wasn’t that; it was the Ministry Against Corruption. We think they need one.Mercado Central, Maputo, Mozambique

Mercado Central, Maputo, Mozambique

Street Merchant, Maputo,Mozambique

Street Merchant, Maputo,Mozambique

Posted by HopeEakins 07:24 Archived in Mozambique Comments (0)

Madagascar

Maundy Thursday and Good friday

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Madagascar is large and poor and beautiful. We sailed into Ft. Dauphin, a harbor almost empty save for structures built by Rio Tinto, a company that mines titanium, and, from the looks of it, doesn’t pay its workers very much. The roads are superb (Rio Tinto apparently needs them) and almost empty (because everyone is too poor to afford a motor bike, let alone a car). Silversea runs free shuttle busses into every port where they can and we started off to visit the town. Many were returning after taking the shuttle and their warnings rang out - don’t get out of the bus; you can see all you need through the window; the shore representative said it’s too dangerous to walk on the beach - and finally, if you get out you’ll be the only white faces there. That did it. We got out.

Ft. Dauphin is somewhat overwhelming for the folks ARE very poor (Average income is $1/day) and eager to sell you anything, to be a guide for the day, to get your attention. Many pushed against the shuttle bus to see inside, and the smell was overwhelming when we got out. A little fellow (see photo) was determined to sell us a necklace and followed us all through the town and sat outside when we went into the church. How could we resist? Other buying opportunities abounded at the market, a huge series of shacks on streets and side streets, mostly selling old clothes that, I swear, could be rejects from the St. James tag sale. One of our fellow travelers saw ... ready?? ... someone wearing a tee shirt that had her daughter’s name printed on it! True. The t-shirt had been made for her daughter’s 2003 high school graduation and had the names of the class printed on the back. It could have been a shirt discarded by a classmate, but, more likely, part of the overrun from the shirt manufacturer. Whatever, it was COINCIDENCE writ large.

Maundy Thursday brought its own coincidence. When we sat down to worship (sitting because of rough seas with waves higher than our window), there were 12 at the table. The service was one of those imbued with Christ’s presence. We had a dinner roll and port from the bar and a hushed reverence that moved us all. What a privilege!

On Good Friday, our “chapel” was moved to accommodate the Passover service next door. Catholic Mass was in the Lounge. The non-affiliated on this ship are certainly getting a sense of what Holy Week is like! We read John’s Gospel in parts (the Eugene Petersen translation in The Message) and said the solemn collects adapted for this community. Nice.
Jeweler of Madagascar

Jeweler of Madagascar

Grace and balance in Madagascar

Grace and balance in Madagascar

Ft. Dauphin clothing store

Ft. Dauphin clothing store

Posted by HopeEakins 07:15 Archived in Madagascar Comments (0)

Easter homily

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Homily preached by
The Reverend William J. Eakins
at sunrise on March 31, 2013, Easter Sunday
on the Silver Whisper at Richards Bay, South Africa

We started to see signs of Easter many many weeks ago. Chocolate bunnies and jelly beans were already on sale in the department stores of Australia. Brightly colored Easter eggs hung from ribbons and fluffy white bunnies decorated Manila’s Mall of Asia. In Hong Kong, our guide told us how she was looking forward to celebrating Easter with her children. “But you’re a Buddhist,” we said, “why do you celebrate a Christian holiday?” “I enjoy making Easter baskets for my children,” Shermone explained, “They really love them.”

Easter celebrations are a lot of fun, and we should enjoy them. I love Easter baskets filled with jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, and marshmallow chicks. I love dying Easter eggs, and I love easter egg hunts. and yet, each of us gathered on the deck this morning knows that the celebration of Easter is about much more than Easter baskets and Easter eggs, far more than bunnies and chicks as symbols of spring, nature renewing itself. Easter, the Christian Easter, is the Good News about what God has done in raising Jesus Christ from the dead, Good News that brings peace and hope to all who receive it.

The Christian Easter first came to three women on their way to a tomb just as the sun’s first rays had appeared over the horizon. Jesus, the man they believed was God’s anointed One, had been crucified and with his death all their hopes for the future were over. They had been there when his mangled body was taken down from the cross. They had done what they could to give Jesus a decent burial. They had beard the thud of the heavy stone rolled across the tomb’s entrance.

That’s where the Christian story of Easter always begins: not in an idealized never never land, but in the real and imperfect world that we all know well, a world where might often triumphs over right, where there is wrongdoing and injustice, sickness and death, betrayal and disappointment, broken relationships and hostility. The light and truth of Easter morning dawns first not upon the happy and satisfied but upon the poor in spirit.

The three women approach the tomb and are utterly astonished. Contrary to all expectation, the heavy stone has been rolled away. Upon entering the tomb they see a young man who tells them that Jesus is no longer there. His grave is empty. He has been raised from the dead. The women flee from the empty tomb in terror and amazement.

The Good News of Easter is always astonishing. It is astonishing because it is but much more than nature’s cycle of spring and winter, life and death. The Easter proclamation, “Christ is risen!” is not about nature, it is about God, God who loves the world so much that God became one with us, sparing nothing, not even the rejection and pain of the cross.

The Christian Easter, the real Easter, is not, however, just about something God has done: it is about something we must do as well. In the Gospel story, the messenger orders the women to “Go and tell” the Good News that “Christ is risen.” So overwhelmed are the women that at first they can do nothing but run away and hide. Yet we know that soon they did tell others. Peter and the disciples not only heard the Good News of the empty tomb, they then encountered the Risen Christ and so the Church was born.

“He is going before you ... you will see him” is still the Good News of Easter. Jesus Christ is still alive and active in the world today. Christ is carrying out God’s mission of restoring the world to wholeness, of making all things new. The Risen Christ still goes before us into Galilee and into Madagascar and into South Africa and invites us to meet him there in all of life, in hospitals and classrooms, in troubled families and joyous children, in the faces of the poor and in the corridors of power. And when we have found him and our lives are changed by hope, there is one more thing that we must do. Go and tell the Good News: “Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!”

Posted by HopeEakins 04:04 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Good Friday Homily

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Homily preached by
The Reverend Hope H. Eakins
on March 29, 2013, Good Friday
on the Silver Whisper in the Indian Ocean

What does it mean, this Good Friday? Why have we left the pool deck, the cocktail party to come and hear words of pain and death? After all, Easter is only two days away. After all, we know how the story ends.

When the prima ballerina Anna Pavlova was asked what one of her dances meant, she replied, “If I could explain it, I wouldn’t have to dance it.” From the beginning of time God has tried to explain it, to tell us how much we are loved. God tried making the rainbow promise to Noah when the ark came to rest on dry land, God tried parting the Red Sea waters to free the people from their slavery in Egypt. God sent prophets to tell us to turn around and repent, and when their words rang hollow in the skies, God put flesh around the words and sent Jesus to teach us and heal us and love us.

We are here today because when God said “I love you,” God said it from a cross. Pavlova is right: there are some things you just can’t say with words. I can’t say it with words either. But I can tell you a story of love stripped bare.

It happened on a ward in a large Veteran’s Hospital. The patients were men whose bodies were broken and whose spirits were even more broken. One day a Bishop came to visit that bleak ward. He was a good Bishop. He moved slowly from bed to bed and didn't offer pleasantries or foolish hopes. He listened mostly and remembered not to try to shake hands with an armless man. When someone called out, “Hey, Padre, give us a speech,” he did. It was an earnest talk, and since he believed what he was saying, they believed him too. He told them how much Jesus loved them and how Jesus became one of them; he told them how Jesus brought healing to the sick and hope to the prisoners; he told them about Jesus’ wounds and how he ended up dying on a cross for them. He said good-bye and the men thanked him, but the Bishop knew that he had not brought them the hope they needed. So he turned back into the ward as if he had forgotten something. He stood silently before the men and then he started to undress. He took off his coat. He took off his necktie and his shirt. He peeled off his undershirt. Then he took off his trousers and his socks and his shoes, and they saw that every part of his body was scarred and strapped together by braces. The Bishop was a wounded war veteran too. He stood there for a moment and then put his clothes back on. No words were spoken because no words had to be spoken. There was compassion in that ward; there was understanding in that ward; there was love in that ward. The Bishop raised his hand and blessed the men. They never forgot him.

Like that Bishop, “Jesus was stripped of his garments.” Jesus hung before the world exposed and vulnerable, wounded like we are. God did not stay aloof from us, working miracles from the sky; God did not send us a Bible full of love letters; God hung on the cross beside us, to tell us that even the pain of thorns and nails can be redeemed and healed.

Somehow the dogma has arisen in Christianity that Jesus died so that our sins might be forgiven, as if God’s anger had to be appeased, as if Someone else took the punishment we deserved. Some theologians talk like that, but not the ones who walked beside Jesus. Jesus didn't die so that God could forgive our sins; Jesus died to show us that God does forgive our sins because God loves us. Jesus died to show us that God is not far from us, but beside us in the midst of our joy and in the midst of our pain.

To the sinner, to the rejected, to the suffering, to all who wonder if God is real, if God is there, God answers with a Word spoken by Christ on the cross who stretches out his arms to say, “I am here and I love you – this much.”

Posted by HopeEakins 04:02 Archived in Madagascar Comments (0)

Maundy Thursday homily

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Homily preached by
The Reverend William J. Eakins
on March 28, 2013, Maundy Thursday
on the Silver Whisper in the Indian Ocean

“And when the hour came, Jesus sat at table and the apostles with him …”

It was the Last Supper, the last time the disciples would eat together, the last time the disciples would all be together as a family, because within a few hours of that supper, all Hell would break loose, to put it literally.

It was night and there were soldiers, and the air was choked with the fear of the disciples’ own deaths - and they didn’t yet know the half of it. But Jesus knew that if ever there were to be a day we would call Good Friday, if the world were ever to be saved from the evil outside those doors and the evil outside our doors, then, within hours, he would bear a cross to Calvary’s hill.

I remember my own last suppers, times of separation that were filled with poignant meaning and choked back tears. I remember when my last son left to go away to school and all the advice I wanted to give him - how to separate the laundry, how to manage his money, how to drive safely, how never to skip breakfast - all the things the years should have taught him I tried to pack into the last few hours.

I remember the last time I ever saw my father. He was in a nursing home trying to recover from a stroke. He was vary weak, lying in bed and barely able to speak. I had to fly home to go back to work. I gave him a big hug and started to leave. And it was then my father lifted his hand as in blessing and spoke the precious words I’ll never forget: “You’ve been a good son, Bill. I’m proud of you.”

Offering a last act of love, giving last words of advice - this is what Jesus is doing in tonight’s Gospel, trying to keep his little family of disciples safe in the face of his death. And so he did three things.

He told the disciples not to squabble among themselves, that a dispute over who was the greatest was foolish because they were all the greatest, made in his Father’s image and so precious that he soon would die for them, and because being the greatest wasn't what it was all about anyway. He told them to love one another because one another was all they had.

Next he told them to be servants. “I am among you as one who serves,” he said. I have given you an example. Now go and serve each other, remembering that you are so precious that the Almighty God stooped down to be born in a manger for you, that I have stooped to wash your feet, and that I am breaking my body for you.

Jesus knew that servanthood is not an easy road, and so he gave them one last thing; he fed them a last supper that would last; he gave them himself. He took the loaf of bread. “This is my body,” he said and broke it, fragmented it, that the bread could be shared among them and in the sharing make them whole and make his new body whole, his new body that is the Body of Christ, the church, constituted by the squabbling disciples and by all of us throughout the ages who have been fed from the one Body broken and the blood poured forth.

For thousands of years we have shared this real presence, this sacrament of Christ’s giving his life away for the life of the world, for us, that we may give ourselves away for our brothers and sisters. Again and again, over the centuries, the ancient drama of the Last Supper has been enacted in catacombs, on battlefields, in hospital beds, in great cathedrals and tiny chapels, and here on the Silver Whisper.

In one way or another, the bread is broken and shared, the wine poured out and drunk. It is our Lord’s last gift to us and his greatest promise. “Take this,” he said, “and share it, divide it, so that the whole world may be fed in my name.”

Jesus’ last instructions are echoed at the end of Ernest Hemingway’s novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls. The hero, Robert Jordan, is fatally wounded, and Maria, the woman he loves, wants to stay behind and die with him. But he tells her that she must go on, must go ahead and live for him. He says to her:

“Now you will go for us both; you must do your duty now.… Now art thou doing what thou should.… Not me but us both. The me in thee. Truly. We both go in thee now. This I have promised thee. Don’t look around. Go.”

And Pablo hit the horse across the crupper … and it looked like Maria tried to slip from the saddle…. “Roberto,” Maria turned and shouted. “Let me stay! Let me stay!” “I am with thee,” Robert shouted back, “I am with thee now. We are both there. Go.” Then they were out of sight around the corner of the draw and he was soaking wet with sweat and looking at nothing.”

These words are like the words that Jesus says to us tonight: Take my body. The me in thee. Truly. This have I promised thee. Go. And live for me.

Posted by HopeEakins 04:00 Archived in Madagascar Comments (0)

Indian Ocean Islands

Maldives (continued), Mauritius, and Reunion

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We are not as enthusiastic about the Indian Ocean ports as other ports we have visited (cf. post on The Maldives)! The Maldives, Mauritius, and Réunion all have reportedly fabulous resorts, but the fabulosity doesn’t seem to extend beyond the hotel grounds. What we saw of Mauritius was mostly fields of sugar cane, the edges dotted with bags and heaps of garbage. We traveled through them on our way to Ile aux Cerfs, a sort of private island of the resort Le Touesseroc. There we swam, had a lunch under the tiki huts complete with a serenade. On Réunion, we went to a family vanilla farm (all vanilla farms are small family operations) and then to a cirque - an area of fantastic canyons and waterfalls that are stunningly beautiful. The road ended at a huge pile of rocks, the result of a recent landslide that destroyed the route. Rocks fall often - the rock face beside the major road is covered with many many iron curtains to prevent disaster.

These islands are heavily dependent on tourism, but they seem to isolate rather than integrate tourists - so of course the tourists stay at their resorts. This is fine in the Maldives because they have banned “beer and bikinis” and don’t like their women dressed in Western style. Given those strictures, it seems amazing that 50% of the youth of the Maldives are drug addicted, so the city is not very safe.

Mauritius is distinguished because it has been successful in integrating all its MANY ethnic groups and religions. The country needed to import workers for the sugar cane plantations and brought them from diverse places, and they intermarried and have formed themselves into one community. How nice!

Réunion is heavily subsidized by France (and government employees’ salaries are 35% higher than on the mainland*) so its infrastructure is much more advanced than the other places; Réunion has few beaches and its big attractions are trekking and parasailing (Bryan Adams, you’ve already had your vacation). * Amazing that they refer to France (an 11 hour flight away) as “the mainland” as though Reunion were an offshore island!

I wonder if the heavy emphasis on tourism in these is inhibitory, if the available energy is poured into the resorts rather than into developing other sustainable industries. Maybe these questions wouldn’t arise if we saw this vacation as a time for luxury and relaxation and indulgence (which it is aboard ship), but we have SO enjoyed the exploration of different cultures and societies and geographies and worship practices and burial customs and architecture and and and... We have loved and been grateful for every single port, large/small, wealthy/impoverished, Christian/Buddhist. But exploring local life is not what one does on the islands of the Indian Ocean, it seems.

Mauritius_beach.jpgPierr_Poiv..f_Mauritius.jpgH&B in Reunion

H&B in Reunion

Posted by HopeEakins 01:22 Archived in Reunion Comments (3)

Palm Sunday homily

with thanksgiving that we are now beyond the "high risk zone"

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Homily preached by
The Reverend Hope H. Eakins
on March 23, 2013, the Eve of Palm Sunday
aboard the Silver Whisper in the Indian Ocean
(with palms from Cochin, India)

Jerusalem was in the mood for celebration on that first Palm Sunday. In the Holy City, the streets were filled with people who had come for the Passover feast, and their voices were pitched a little louder in the face of all the crowds. There was talk of Messiah in the air, rumors about a rabbi from Galilee. They knew their Scripture, this crowd. They knew that Zechariah had prophesied, “Behold your King is coming to you, humble and mounted on an colt,” and then they saw him, the one called Jesus, and behold, he was entering the city on a beast, just like the prophet had said.

Some spread their garments on the ground; some cut palm branches and made a carpet of them. “Hosanna,” they cried. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” It was a parade, and everybody loves a parade. But something was different about this parade. Jesus didn't wave like a politician but rode on silently knowing that this was no football game. He had told them so, but they didn’t believe him; he had told them that this journey would lead to his death, but the crowd didn’t want to follow anybody to their death. That’s not part of a parade.

It is the same way yet today. There is excitement on Palm Sunday when we know Easter is near. Sunday School children wave their palms in a procession and cry Hosanna, even though they don’t know quite what Hosanna means. But there are baskets and bunnies around, and an egg hunt next week. We grown-ups know what comes first: the end of it all, the cross and the pain and the dying, but those things aren’t part of a parade.

Jesus’ disciples also wanted to forget that the Palm Sunday procession led to a cross on Calvary. And so he asks them as he asks us, “Could you not watch with me one hour,?” And we say no, we’re really sorry but we’ve got a tour in Madagascar and Maputo and Trivia is at 4:45. “But could you not come and remember why I got nailed to the cross?” he asks. And we say, one way or another, “Well, we’re not eager to do that, Lord, because it’s not really part of the parade.

It is a funny thing, but when you are dying, the important thing isn’t the parade but the cross. Once you get that diagnosis, you want somebody to listen to your fears and tell you that your life matters, not “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it.” When you are dying, you want somebody to say that they love you and they’ll remember you, not to promise you that every little thing’s gonna be all right. It is a funny thing, but it is through Jesus’ death, ugly as it is, that life is offered to us and hope is poured into our hearts. What matters is that God loves us enough to die for us. What matters is that Jesus Christ came to hang beside us on all the crosses of our living and all the crosses of our dying too. What matters isn’t the party - but that somebody loves us when the party’s over.

I have watched the anguish of those who die and the pain of those who have to see them die. And I have also seen the living and the dying gather together to support each other and believe for each other and hold each other up and dare to remember their faith in Christ’s promises. And then it happens that unbearable pain becomes bearable and they remember that they are not alone, that there are two on the cross, because in our living and in our dying, Jesus promises that we will never ever be alone.

God asks those of us who come to this parade to keep on walking to Calvary. And maybe God asks us to do that so that we can learn how to be present at the crosses of today: to listen to the bereaved, to sit by sickbeds, to hold the hands of the anxious, to hold out hope for those who are getting divorced and those who have lost their jobs, to dream dreams for the despairing, to engage the lonely, to look the poor in the eye because we are brothers and sisters. When there are no quick fixes, no easy answers, God asks us to walk with those who go through the valleys of death. That is a hard thing for people like me who like solutions and plans, construction and parades, who want to fix things and make them all better. But then I imagine that Jesus preferred the parade to the cross too, and that is why he asks his disciples - why he asks us - Could you not watch with me an hour?

Posted by HopeEakins 06:42 Archived in Mauritius Comments (0)

The Maldives

The brochure pix don't tell the whole story

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The Maldives are an odd place, an odd country, and we give advice to all who would come here - don’t make an effort to do so. The country consists of 26 atolls into which its 1200 islands are grouped; the average height above sea level is 5 feet. Of the total population of 300,000, 100,000 folks are crammed onto Malè, which looks like a large lily pad with dirty buildings all over it. We spent the day on Malè, got very hot (over 100 degrees), got shoved off the narrow broken sidewalks (the Maldivians don’t like visitors, especially non-Muslim ones), went to the Museum and left because it smelled so bad, looked for a nail salon (hah!) and a Starbucks (hah! hah!) for WiFi. We did find a cafe with WiFi and coffee and air conditioning, but it was not great and everything is very $$ because there are no natural resources and everything has to be imported. The language used here is Dhivehi, a strange adaptation on Sri Lankan, with round squiggles written right to left and peppered with little dot and dashes above the letters. We hear that the resorts are great but in danger of 1) rising seas and 2) a government ban on beer and bikinis. It takes a big effort to get to them - and once there you would NEVER leave the resort, so why come all this way, as there are lots of great resorts in the world. No photos today; nothing looked very interesting.

The pirates must be closing in. We had to shut our curtains at 6 pm tonight and there are NO lights on the outside of the ship. We are speeding to Mauritius and looking forward to being out of the pirate zone.

Posted by HopeEakins 06:25 Archived in Maldives Republic Comments (2)

Plot thickens

Excitement at sea

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Given reports of high risk "activity," we didn't sail last night but anchored outside Cochin harbor. We left early this morning and are speeding along to make up the 8 hours lost and also to make waves to deter pirates. We never knew that vacation could be so exciting! (And Bryan, the posts on the La Terrazza deck that we were curious about are stanchions for search lights to shine aft.) H&B

Posted by HopeEakins 20:34 Archived in India Comments (2)

Cochin, India

Good news all around

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Good news! 1) No pirates yet, and 2) Saraf Hospital, Cochin, may look a little primitive, but Dr. Saraf, the ENT, is a kind and competent doc who removed the wax from Bill’s ears and brought a huge smile to Bill’s face. Bill is amazed and grateful that he can hear again. We left the ship at 5, arrived at the hospital at 5:20, were seen at 5:30, sent to the hospital pharmacy at 6, paid our bill and were back at the ship at 6:25. That is 1 hour 25 minutes total. And about the bill ... 250 rupees for admission to Saraf, 400 rupees for the consultant, 33 rupees for the medicine. Total = 683 rupees or $12.64.

Other activities include seeing the Chinese fishing nets so characteristic of this port, a Kerekali dance show, and a lovely Indian dinner. See below.

Ephatha

Ephatha

Hospital Ladies room

Hospital Ladies room

Chinese fishing nets

Chinese fishing nets

Kerakali theatre

Kerakali theatre

At the Indian dinner

At the Indian dinner

Posted by HopeEakins 06:28 Archived in India Comments (2)

Homily

March 17, 2013, Cochin, India

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Homily preached by
The Reverend William J. Eakins
on March 17, 2013, the Fifth Sunday in Lent
on the Silver Whisper in Cochin, India

It would be hard to take a trip like the one we have been on without recognizing that human beings have all sorts of differences. We vary in size, skin color, facial characteristics, dress, diet, customs, ways of organizing our society and our government. We also have different religions that express our understanding of who God is, what is the meaning and purpose of our lives, what is important and where we are bound.

It would also be hard to deny that we human beings often have great difficulty living with our differences. Indeed we often let our differences be the cause of division. We erect barriers to keep the stranger out. We look down our noses at those we think are not our kind. We let politics polarize us into liberals and conservatives, red state and blue states. We fight wars over which religion is right and which is wrong and fight crusades and jihads in the name of God. And even within religions like Christianity, we have a long history of dividing ourselves into the orthodox and the heretical, not only splintering the Church, the Body of Christ, into countless sects, but justifying the hatred and cruelty of inquisitions and persecutions.

There are no easy solutions to the problem of learning to live creatively with our differences rather than letting differences lead to division. But what is clear is that while division is human, God is always about the business of breaking down division to bring about reconciliation, peace, and unity.

The people to whom St. Paul addressed the letter to the Ephesians that we heard tonight were no strangers to division. They represented one of the great divisions of the ancient world: the one between Jews and Gentiles. God, says Paul, has overcome this division in Christ who came to proclaim peace to Jews and Gentiles alike.

A large wallpainting at Colombo’s Anglican cathedral captures perfectly the meaning of St. Paul’s words. The painting depicts the familiar Gospel of Christ’s miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, the turning of the water into wine. All the familiar characters are there - the bride and groom, the guests, and in the background the nervous servants aghast that the wine has run out, and Jesus giving his instruction to fill the wine jugs with water and pour it out for the guests. We also see the servants bringing the water made wine to the guests, all delighting that the good wine has been saved to the last.

It was our Sri Lankan guide, a Buddhist, who pointed out something we did not see. “Look,” he said, “the people in the painting are all different. Some are Tamils, some Singhalese, some are Hindus, some Buddhists, some are even Muslims.” We would never have been able to see the differences so familiar to Dominic. But then we did notice another change. In all the other pictures I’ve ever seen of the miracle at Cana, the servants are men. But in Colombo version, the servants and the wine steward are all women.

At this Cathedral, appropriately called the Cathedral of the Living Christ, the story on the wall is more than a tale of Jesus rescuing a wedding reception from running out of wine. The story is made into a modern miracle of Christ’s presence enabling men and women to transcend the boundaries of race, ethnicity, culture, and gender to become a new community drinking the good wine of reconciliation, peace and unity.

I think we do that by opening our minds and hearts to new ways of seeing and new ways of being - by refusing to stereotype folks, by listening to people with political opinions that are not ours, by seeking to understand and not to judge, by giving thanks for differences because they enrich us.

The Jews have a prayer to be said upon seeing the unusual. “Blessed art thou, Lord God, King of the Universe,” they say “for showing us strange things that teach us that you have created more than we know or imagine.” May this be our prayer as we continue on this journey together and as we continue on the journey of all our lives.

Posted by HopeEakins 06:21 Archived in India Comments (0)

Sabang

A real tropical island

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We had never heard of Sabang, a town on Pulau Weh, the little island that marks the north west corner of Indonesia’s 300 mile width. Sabang is a 45 minute ferry ride across from Banda Aceh, Sumatra, noted for the tsunami there in 2004 and various wars of independence. Our destination lecturer said that Sabang had no hotels, no resorts, no market, no sights to see. All true, but we fell in love with this beautiful and hospitable place. We were welcomed by every resident, it seems, and the high school marching band and a welcome dance. We then drove to a Anoi Itam, a lovely knoll atop a horrid Japanese bunker built during the 1942-45 occupation (Japan does not come off well in the histories of this area; they may have been skilled at war but they did cruel and inhumane things to their enemies and the residents of the countries they invaded.) Then to a small village on Iboih Beach (a snorkeling and diving destination) that had gone all out to welcome us. We all had coconuts to drink and stuffed banana leaves and fried bananas and chairs in the shade (a good thing because it was 104 degrees) to watch a girls grade school dance troupe perform native dances. On the way back to the ship, nursing monkeys lined the road and ate bananas. Someday this place will be “discovered” like Phuket, we fear; how good it was to be here first.

Anoi Itam

Anoi Itam

Dancers on Palau Weh

Dancers on Palau Weh

AC5E43A02219AC68171A6595A4DD7E70.jpgBeach on Palau Weh

Beach on Palau Weh

Children watching dancers

Children watching dancers

Hope and Coconut

Hope and Coconut

Local food on Palau Weh

Local food on Palau Weh

Lake Aneuk Laot

Lake Aneuk Laot

Posted by HopeEakins 03:38 Archived in Malaysia Comments (3)

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