A Travellerspoint blog

Phuket

sunny 99 °F
View Sailing Around the World & Around the World with Bill and Hope on HopeEakins's travel map.

We never saw beach in this island of the world’s best beaches. That’s because we went to an elephant camp. This involved an elephant show, elephant ride that was surprisingly longer and more difficult than we thought, and demonstration of rubber tree tapping - the white sap flows out quickly and fills a bowl in a few hours. Then off to another temple! Chalong was huge, crowded, and marked by a sign warning, “Do not kiss or hug in the temple.”

Elephant ride

Elephant ride

Posted by HopeEakins 04:56 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Penang

where you should drink lots of water

sunny 100 °F
View Sailing Around the World & Around the World with Bill and Hope on HopeEakins's travel map.

Penang

We are becoming more and more familiar with Malaysia and its blend of old and new, colonial and native - and its heat. Sightseeing in 90-100 degree weather is draining - and we confess to the occasional desire to look out the window of the air conditioned van rather than to walk around the site! And yet our introduction to this little island off the Malay peninsula was by trishaw, a two seat vehicle pedaled by a man on a little bike. The drivers were quite small and had very big calves. The city/region of Panang, like all of this region, has been a rich melange of cultures from its inception. That happened in 1786 when Francis Light arranged to lease it from the Malay Sultan on behalf of the British East India Company. But there were few inhabitants so Light populated it by offering free land to any immigrants who applied. They came - Armenians, Chinese, Burmese, Thais, etc. But the place was thick jungle. The canny Mr. Light filled his cannon with silver coins, fired them into the jungle, and offered free axes to the immigrants who cleared that land in a flash.

We went to a butterfly farm, saw a batik workshop, gaped at another reclining Buddha (108 feet long), and then encountered the Khoo Klan. The Klan is a secret society of kinsmen (no women need apply) who are descended from a Khoo. They lived in a Khoo ghetto, warred with other clans, built a temple and a crematory and a columbarium, and promoted commerce. Now that the warfare is over they provide help to Khoos in need.

Trishaws

Trishaws

Arriving at the Pinang Pernakan Mansion

Arriving at the Pinang Pernakan Mansion

Wat Chayamangkalaram

Wat Chayamangkalaram

Butterfly

Butterfly

Batik stamping

Batik stamping

Khoo Klan temple

Khoo Klan temple

Posted by HopeEakins 04:51 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Homily

March 10, 2013

sunny 95 °F
View Sailing Around the World & Around the World with Bill and Hope on HopeEakins's travel map.

Homily preached in Penang, Malaysia, on the Silver Whisper
on March 10, 2013, the Fourth Sunday of Lent
by The Reverend Hope Howlett Eakins

This afternoon in Penang, we saw a statue of Queen Victoria which narrowly escaped destruction by the Japanese in World War II, as they sought metal to melt down for ornaments. But they never saw Victoria because a local resident hid her in a chicken coop until the war was over.

Last Tuesday we visited the Temple of the Golden Buddha in Bangkok. This Buddha was made of SOLID gold in the 14th C. It weighs 5 1/2 tons, is 15' 9" high and 12' 5" wide. When the Burmese attacked Siam in the 15th C, smart monks covered the Buddha with plaster to hide it, doing such a good job of it that people forgot what was underneath and no temple wanted the Buddha because it was so lumpy and heavy. So it sat there for 600 years, until one abbot decided to chose the statue for his monastery and had it moved there, but alas, the Buddha fell from the crane and cracked. But then one day in 1955, when a monk was praying, he saw a glint beneath the crack and discovered the gold - all 5.5 tons of it! Now this Buddha sits in a gorgeous temple and knocks your socks off (well that’s not exactly true but you do have to take your shoes off to go and see it).

Many years ago, Bill and I also found treasure. It was a rainy spring that year, and the men whom Bill had hired to paint the outside of the church were at loose ends because of the weather. So Bill had an idea: perhaps they could clean the bell tower of the grit that had accumulated for a hundred years or so. The grit was mostly dried bird droppings, and the painters loaded it into great bags and dropped them down to the undercroft where some folks gathered to package them. Sign of the Dove we called it and we marketed it as fertilizer. It was actually very good fertilizer, according to the State Agricultural lab’s analysis, and we had a ton and a half of it, which when sold raised $110,000 by turning garbage into treasure.

There is a lesson for us all in these stories, I think, about the redemption of garbage, about finding gold in an unexpected place. For aren’t these our hopes too? Hopes of finding solutions in unexpected places after we have searched our mind and soul and found them bare? Hopes of seeing what looks like waste transformed into something that evokes growth and new life. From dung to fertilizer … isn’t that at the heart of our desire, to go from frail and fallible human beings to children of God with a purpose in this world?

What the story of God’s guano teaches is that what looks like unacceptable garbage, what we like least about ourselves or our situation, what we are ashamed of, can be redeemed by God and used to make the world grow.

In today’s reading, St. Paul gives all sorts of instructions about Christian life, about being kind and humble and patient - and then he sums them up - saying “Be thankful.” He tells us to be grateful for what we have and to ask for God’s grace to use whatever we have - even if it looks like garbage. There is treasure to be found in the church tower and beneath the Buddha’s plaster and in a chicken coop. There is treasure to be found in each of us. The thing we may want to throw away may be the gift of greatest value to us. Are you judgmental? With God’s grace you can become a person of great discernment. Are you lustful? With God’s grace your desire can be turned into deep and selfless love. Are you selfish and acquisitive? With God’s grace you may become passionate for righteousness. Are you timid and cowardly? With God’s grace you can grow in powerful dependence on God. Are you slow to learn? You can become a person of great compassion and patience.

As the old saying goes, God doesn’t make junk. We are all precious treasure waiting to be transformed by God who loves us and can make all things new.

Posted by HopeEakins 04:14 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Singapore

Disney Land City

overcast 98 °F
View Sailing Around the World & Around the World with Bill and Hope on HopeEakins's travel map.

Singapore stands in great contradistinction to our travels to Vietnam and Cambodia and Bangkok. The city state is grand and exciting and amazing; there is not one piece of litter, one smudge of chewing gum, one broken curb anyplace. We saw no poor, no sick, no one badly dressed. The city bustles and yet is rather gracious; there is considerable traffic but there are well designed roads and public transportation. The ship’s destination consultant who lectures on each port/country made the observation that different places of worship and ethnic populations stand beside each other in Singapore without conflict because the god is commerce and people are willing to give up their personal rights for the success of the economy. Thus there are large fines for gum chewing - and no one does. Drug dealing/possession is punishable by death - so there is no drug culture.

We docked in Singapore at 6 pm and were whisked away to the China Club atop a magnificent skyscraper where we had drinks (in beautiful etched glasses) in a beautifully furnished space whose windows overlook the city. Then a seven course Chinese dinner with a harpist playing and crisp linens and great service.

On the next day we asked a cab driver to take us to the Botanical Gardens and he told us that he had a better idea - Gardens by the Bay. Too hot outside, he said (97°), and these new gardens (2012) were air conditioned and had a waterfall and supertrees --- and we said okay. GBTBay is so typically Singapore - taxis drop you at a ticket counter; after purchase, you go in a little train through 8-10 various gardens, drive by the supertrees* to the Flower Dome which is a 10 story high glass structure that overlooks the city and has every flowering plant you can imagine. Then to the Cloud Dome - again 10 stories high with waterfall and baobab trees and a giant walkway. *The supertrees are pretty great: huge metal structures with trunks made of packed plants incorporated with technologies that mimic that mimic the natural functions of trees - they catch rainwater and collect it and drain it and they capture energy. They also have computerized lights that give a light show every evening - and one has a restaurant on the top.

Then to the Raffles Long Bar for Singapore Slings and lunch, and next to St. Andrew’s Cathedral. It was hard to find one’s way in there. The main door was locked, but there was a large Welcome Center near the subway stop around the block - and the inside was AIR CONDITIONED. We went through to the nave (again hard to find the way, but we went by a kitchen and up some stairs) where the area to the side of the altar was filled with old music stands and speakers and detritus. The sanctuary was blocked by a chain with a sign ‘Do Not Enter.’ So we sat in a pew and knelt down - on plastic, for the needlepoint on the kneelers had been covered up with plastic sheets. We saw no prayer books and lots of TV screens on the pillars. Feeling very hot and not very welcome, we recalled that this was a church with a welcome CENTER, for heaven’s sake, so we went there and on our way saw the new Chapel for All People which was rather bare and mildewy smelling, but big. Then back to the welcome center whose large windows held posters (2 x 5 feet maybe) with the title “WERE APES THE ANCESTORS OF MAN?” Subheads said things like “Evolution has Never Been Proved” and “Evolution Contradicts God’s Word.” We were astounded and ashamed. Surely in this 21st century city, the Anglican Church shouldn’t be denying evolution. Who would go to this church?

Finally we took the subway back to the ship. We didn’t know the rules. We went to a ticket window where you couldn’t buy single fare tickets. So we went to a machine and mastered it - but - we didn’t have a bill small enough to work it. So we went to a money changing place and broke the $20 bill and then back to the machine again. The subways are efficient and well routed, but they are very crowded.

In short, we were glad to see this city but likely will not return.

Singapore behind cloud forest (1)

Singapore behind cloud forest (1)

Raffles Hotel

Raffles Hotel

Singapore Sling

Singapore Sling

Welcome to you

Welcome to you

Keeping the kneelers clean

Keeping the kneelers clean

The world was made in SEVEN days!

The world was made in SEVEN days!

Posted by HopeEakins 04:12 Archived in Singapore Comments (1)

Bangkok

City of Gold

sunny 90 °F
View Sailing Around the World & Around the World with Bill and Hope on HopeEakins's travel map.

We are overwhelmed and astounded after the last few days. In Vietnam, we left our little home away from home, flew to Cambodia (Angkor Wat!!), and then flew to Thailand, where we were met by an excellent guide Kay and driver Meng who whisked us and our luggage into Bangkok, walked us through the city to an exceptional restaurant overlooking the golden Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun) and then back to our new cabin on the ship late in the evening. All the next day, Kay guided us through the crowded streets and canals and river where gold glitters like Fort Knox - actually better than Ft. K because Bangkok’s golden temples are adorned with porcelain and enamel and gemstones and paintings that leave you speechless. And then on the last day, we sailed away at dusk wanting very much to return to this amazing city.

Our first destination was the flower market. Okay, okay, we had seen a fabulous flower market in Hong Kong, but this one was quite different. The predominant color was gold in the form of marigolds. Never have I dreamt that so many marigolds could be in the same place, with so many people busily removing the stems and packing the heads in plastic bags - all to be sent someplace where others are making garlands and ornaments for the temples. Young and old alike work diligently and arduously, catching a little snack on the side, for this was at dinner time. Actually, said Kay, the peak hours in the flower market are midnight to 3 am. More orchids than you can imagine were piled on tables, and we bought a bundle of long stemmed roses (50 of them for $1) and a bunch of gardenias ($.50) for our cabin.

Next, dinner at The Deck, an excellent restaurant where we began to catch the scale of all the glitter and gold, and then home to our new cabin, where our things were quite well placed after the butler had moved them all. Breakfast came at 7 and we were off again with Kay to the Temple of the Golden Buddha.

There is a sermon here! Also a resonance with the Sign of the Dove fertilizer project at Trinity Church for those of you who remember. Sikhotai Tramit, the Golden Buddha, was made of SOLID gold in the 14th C. It weighs 5.5 tons and is 15'9" high and 12'5" in diameter. When the Burmese attacked Siam in the 15th C, smart monks covered the Buddha with plaster to hide it, doing such a good job at the covering that people forgot what was underneath and no temple wanted the Buddha because it was so lumpy and heavy. In the 20th C, one abbot decided otherwise and had the statue moved to his monastery, but alas, it fell from the crane and cracked a bit. One day in 1955, when a monk was praying, he saw a glint beneath the crack and discovered the gold - all 5.5 tons of it! Now this Buddha sits in a gorgeous temple and knocks your socks off (well not actually, but you have to knock your shoes off to go and see it).

An interesting fund raising concept is being developed in the temple precincts. If donors make an offering for a small piece of gold leaf, they can write their names and other info on it with a stylus; the sheets are then going to be melted down to cover a temple addition. How can we adapt this to Anglican churches?

Gold, gold, gold ... another jaw-dropping example of it is the Reclining Buddha, 150 feet long, so long that you can’t really get a full view of this structure whose feet are 10 feet high themselves. All of Bangkok is dotted with splendid gold palaces and temples - but between the dots are the homes and shops of the poor. One of the distinctive features of this city is the diversity of its space. There is no Central Business district; the skyscrapers are spread out over miles and miles and the rich and poor live in the spaces between them. Market places have shrines every block or so. The Grand Palace is integrated into the city center. On the canals, mansions abut hovels, some of which have collapsed into the water (and most of which discharge sewage into the canal). So the city seems not to have upscale districts and slums but just Bangkok spread all around. (And we never saw any red light districts; I think Kay sheltered us.)

Meng, WJE & Kay

Meng, WJE & Kay

Marigolds for temple garlands

Marigolds for temple garlands

Garlands for the gods

Garlands for the gods

Orchids

Orchids

Gold, gold, gold

Gold, gold, gold

B&H with devil & monkey

B&H with devil & monkey

Golden Buddha

Golden Buddha

Offerings for temple - melted for gilding

Offerings for temple - melted for gilding

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Reclining Buddha's feet

Reclining Buddha's feet

Posted by HopeEakins 20:42 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Cambodia

This doesn't feel like retirement

sunny 98 °F
View Sailing Around the World & Around the World with Bill and Hope on HopeEakins's travel map.

We left the ship at Saigon to fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia, for an overland excursion to Angkor Wat. We were feeling privileged to take this trip and also a little homesick for the Silver Whisper. Perhaps this emotion was heightened because when we left the ship we lived on Deck 7, forward, and when we returned we moved to Deck 4, midships. Our trip through the typhoon and monsoon on the China Sea set prodded us to move to a more stable area of the ship before the next storm struck.

The Angkor temples are amazing, as are the crowds. The streets of Siem Reap are lined with huge and lovely hotels and filled with tour busses. The estimate is that 8,000 people visit the temples each day, and the crowds really compromise the experience - as does the temperature (high 90’s) and humidity and rough walking.

We went to three temples - Angkor Thom, Ta Phrom (where the tree roots twine around the walls), and Angkor Wat. They were built by Khmer kings in the 11th-13th centuries and they are mammoth. E.g., Angkor Wat is surrounded by a 27 foot wide moat that is 3.6 miles long and has walls much longer than that. 500,000 people worked for 37 years to build it all - as a place of worship. The walls and stairs and towers and pools are symmetrical, and the structures are covered with carvings of heavenly dancers and stories of wars and conquests.

We stayed at a fine hotel (had massages in the spa, swam in a movie-set pool, heard concerts in the lobby) whose buffet lunch identification cards rivaled the “Custurd Cake” you may remember ... identifying a platter of light colored cold cuts was a sign “Chicken Beer Ham.” We didn’t have any.

We did have insect repellant and used it assiduously per instructions of the UConn Travel Clinic. But as we passed the children’s hospital (there is no adult hospital) we saw the sign below. Ahem.....

The third day we went to the Angkor Silk Farm, an institution designed to train young people in traditional crafts. Wow! We walked from mulberry trees to feeding worms to boiling cocoons to spinning fibers to boiling plants for dye to weaving the most amazingly beautiful fabrics. The showroom also has a smart shop where the goods are for sale. We were so pleased to see these high quality unusually designed items for sale - and not another Cartier in an emerging country.

Then to Wat Damnak Buddhist monastery, one of the monasteries where young boys go to be educated because there are almost no public schools available in the countryside. Girls are rarely educated, and boys are trained as monks, although most of them leave the monastery as soon as their education is finished. In exchange for this privilege, they do chores and beg on the streets.

After a late flight back to Bangkok, we got back on our ship and slept like a log in our new cabin.

Angkor Wat and moat

Angkor Wat and moat

Bayan Temple at Angkor Thom

Bayan Temple at Angkor Thom

Climbing at Angkor Wat

Climbing at Angkor Wat

IMG_2215

IMG_2215

Ta Phrom 2

Ta Phrom 2

Ta Phrom

Ta Phrom

Young monks at Angkor Wat

Young monks at Angkor Wat

IMG_2336

IMG_2336

Monks

Monks

IMG_2385

IMG_2385

Girl weaving

Girl weaving

Bill and many armed Hindu god

Bill and many armed Hindu god

Dengue fever!

Dengue fever!

Posted by HopeEakins 00:35 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

Saigon

Ho Chi Minh City

sunny 90 °F
View Sailing Around the World & Around the World with Bill and Hope on HopeEakins's travel map.

The names ‘Saigon’ and ‘Ho Chi Minh City’ are used pretty interchangeably here, aptly when referring to the history of the old city or the state of the current one. It was odd to be looking at the garden where our troops walked, where the iconic photos of the fall of Saigon were taken, where so much history was made. We visited the Reunification Palace, former seat of the South Vietnamese government, now the place where Uncle Ho’s bust is revered and where foreign dignitaries are received. It is an unattractive place filled with throngs who visit every room and even the basement, filled with old Telex machines and grey metal desks. The people revere Ho Chi Minh because he stopped the war that ravaged the land and reunified the country which now lives with hope - not wealth but hope. The city is poor and third world, yet ... the airport is modern and attractive and chic (and has a sign directing “well-wishers” one way and “greeters” the other - likely distinguishing between departures and arrivals), and only blocks from Saigon’s hovels are shops for Cartier and Chanel and Ralph Lauren.

We went to Henry Cabot Lodge’s former house for a lunch given by the current owner, Mister Dong. The event began with champagne and canapés and a performance of dances of various regions (some were elegant, others, like the Hmong, country stomps). A calligrapher wrote our name on a bamboo scroll and we had a chance to walk through this dwelling. We sat at the dining room table where Lodge sat; we used the master bathroom and the powder room; we saw the kitchen and garage ... and thought what history must have been made in this place when Lodge was U.S. Ambassador.

Finally a look at Notre Dame, the central Roman Catholic Cathedral. It was ugly and unwelcoming. The nave was closed by barriers; the font was shoved in a corner and filled with litter; a chapel featured a statue with a blinking neon halo. Yet we are told that the place is filled to bursting every Sunday by people free to worship and glad of it.Reunification Palace

Reunification Palace

Uncle Ho

Uncle Ho

H&B @ HCLodge house

H&B @ HCLodge house

Dancing at HCLodge house

Dancing at HCLodge house

Dancers at HCLodge house

Dancers at HCLodge house

Posted by HopeEakins 22:37 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Good Morning Vietnam

sunny 93 °F
View Sailing Around the World & Around the World with Bill and Hope on HopeEakins's travel map.

Every day we say “we’re a long way from home” and “THIS is really exotic.” Every day we give thanks for all the blessings of our life at home and our life of incredible privilege on this ship. Every day we pray for the people whose countries we visit. And every day we seem to be in an even more far away place. Chan May, Viet Nam is no exception. It was odd to sail into that (very primitive) port; we had left Hong Kong with Cartier and Bulgari in the Ocean Terminal beside the ship - and the next land beneath our feet was sand on Viet Nam’s shore. Some of the ship’s passengers had last been here as armed forces and their return brought back hard memories.

We drove to Hue on Highway #1, a narrow 1000 mile long road filled with water buffalo and motor bikes and dotted with one room concrete houses. Our perceptive and educated guide Jo noted that the residents are fortunate to have these houses as their former dwellings were bamboo and flood prone. Many of the motor bike drivers wore helmets and large face masks - in the high heat and humidity. In Hue we visited the Imperial Palace, a rather pathetic place under restoration, but even restored it is not going to be a great tourist attraction. Odd how this communist country is proud of its former palace and eager to show it off. Also odd is how this country so ravaged by the war displays hundreds of rifles on a parade ground and features plastic tanks and guns in its toy stalls. Jo says the military focus is not about war but about power. And the difference is???

Next stop was at An Quong Pagoda where Buddhist monks wander and a car is enshrined in a little “chapel.” This Austin was driven to Saigon in 1963 by Thieh Quang Dúc who then got out of it, got into lotus position, and immolated himself to protest government discrimination against religion (Buddhism). So add another odd thing - the communist government approves a pro-religious relic.

After lunch at a hotel where “restaurant services = Hue cuisine for weeding, engage, and party”, we went in a dragon boat down the Perfume River, and walked through a large market where very odd meats were on display and vendors were napping beside them (tired after early morning fishing). A visit to another emperor’s mausoleum completed the day.

Our strongest impressions were how the Vietnam War destroyed a land and a way of life for its people - for a purpose that is barely memorable - and the sad loss of the lives of all the soldiers who fought here. Oh my, oh my, Viet Nam is poor and still filled with land mines. And yet the people are filled with hope - and they see that their lives are improving and most astounding of all, they don’t seem to be hostile or resentful toward the US. They are seemingly focussed on the future and not haunted by the past. But every once in a while we catch a glimpse of hidden anger - like a certain tone of voice while saying things like, “Excuse me for calling it the American War, but that’s what it was.”

Motor bike riders

Motor bike riders

Rifles

Rifles

Rifles and soldiers

Rifles and soldiers

Dragon boat on Perfume River

Dragon boat on Perfume River

73F6327E2219AC6817CC84F83747EA7F.jpgDong Ba Market

Dong Ba Market

sleeping beside the meats

sleeping beside the meats

Not Stop & Shop

Not Stop & Shop

Thien Mu Pagoda

Thien Mu Pagoda

Posted by HopeEakins 01:15 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Hong Kong

THIS is a Communist country???

sunny 70 °F
View Sailing Around the World & Around the World with Bill and Hope on HopeEakins's travel map.

We grew up with the fear of the Red Menace, afraid that Communists might take over the world. Much American money and energy was spent trying to win the war against Communism (remember the McCarthy hearings!). Some of that fear surely was present in the uneasiness and anxiety around Hong Kong’s return from Great Britain to Communist China ..... but baby, look at her now! Sailing into this fabulous harbor brings a view of magnificent skyscrapers and architectural triumphs; walking on the streets brings a sense of pulsating energy and excitement and health. We saw only one slum, almost no litter, no smokers, and a dazzling array of world-famous shops. Attached to the cruise terminal is a mall with every major retailer in the world. The people are well-dressed and have leisure time and money to spend.

Our guide, Shermone Yan, is on the staff of Chris Rowthorn Tours, and we are grateful for the two days we spent with this young mother of two, former employee of the Cultural Affairs Department of the government, wife of an HSBC executive, a woman who is proud of being Chinese and proud of being from HK, a person who has well formed political opinions, appreciates democracy and also appreciates the HK government and how well HK flourishes under its current leadership. Shermone is fun and energetic, a native who knows all the ferry and subway routes (this is a city that requires the use of MANY different forms of transport), an instinctively kind person who appreciates her Chinese heritage and is full of optimism for herself and her kids.

With Shermone, we started by going through the Central to visit the Peak; we went on Sunday and the whole area was filled with Filipinos, almost all female domestic workers. They sat on plazas, on walls, under bridges, on every sidewalk - maybe 20,000 of them. They sat on cardboard boxes and picnic cloths in groups of 8-12, eating from Tupperware containers, playing cards, using their cell phones. Shermone said that in another area 20,000 Indonesian helpers gather each Sunday, the day off for all helpers. Around 7 pm, a cart carries away the cardboard and litter, and the helpers return to their places of employment. Shermone lives in a 600 ft2 apartment; her helper sleeps on the floor beside her sons’ bunk beds. Other workers sleep on plywood sheets atop the bath. The workers have no place to gather but the streets. If it rains? They move under shelters.

From there we went to the Peak which dominates the landscape and is lined with houses that overlook all of HK, are probably 5000 - 20,000 ft2 and grand indeed. Then to a street “wet market” with weird fish and chickens and odd vegetables and mirabile dictu - fat red strawberries from California, Driscoll brand, so not all US trade goes in one direction.

Four times we were at places of worship...
First at a syncretic temple on a busy street, with Buddhist, Taoist, and Confucian elements and sections all interconnected. This is the end of Chinese New Year, so every temple has a lot of business, and business it was. There was no sense of reverence or holiness; I was able to take many photographs and offend no one. Many gods (the primary ones in this temple are for good grades/education and for health), many incense sellers (and some free incense sticks but Shermone says no worthy Chinese would use free incense, that in order to count you have to pay something), many tables with candles and sand to hold the joss sticks and raw meat and paper wrappers and fruits and vegetables and flowers and envelopes holding donations (never ever stolen, says Shermone). People stood before the statues and bowed and sang and waved papers before their faces and prayed and rubbed poles. The whole cacophony was as overwhelming as the smell. (And the smell was so strong that we had to send everything we wore to the laundry/cleaner.)

Second to St. John’s Anglican Cathedral for a 6 pm Taizé service. Maybe 80 youngish people, warm and welcoming, including an invitation to come forward and light a candle and place it in a sand filled container with a prayer request. Shermone went with us.

Third, we saw a private service on a street. An older man and woman squatted beside a cardboard box and lit incense sticks beside a little tray with fruit, a dead chicken and a hunk of barbecued pork. They sought a blessing on their kiosk which was opening that day.

Last we went to Chi Lin Nunnery, a huge and very elegant Buddhist complex of gardens, elderly housing (expensive - $3500/month semi-private), a school, and a mammoth temple that sprawls cloister fashion around the gardens. Although this is government owned (and never advertised - because the government doesn’t promote religion, it is run by (unvested) Buddhist nuns (not monks). Here tourists meander and gape at the magnificent architecture surrounded by the largest and tallest public housing buildings I’ve ever seen (so tall that occasional floors are left without walls to keep the wind from making them sway). Here folks came to the central hall and the side halls (chapels?) and prayed and chanted and bowed and swayed.

Our Shermone says that she’s an atheist - but she went to a temple and made an offering for her sons’ academic success and to another where she prayed for her ancestors - and she lit a candle at St. John’s. So it seems to me that there is an innate human need to pray, desire to pray, to hope that Someone is in charge of this world because we don’t quite feel up to that task. It also seems that prayer/contact with the gods begs for some sacramental object, whether a rosary or a statue or a song or flowers or incense or a dead chicken, because we want to offer something, to make a sign of our presence. It also seems that people like to gather together or to go to a place of holiness - praying in the back yard sometimes doesn’t feel intentional enough or important enough to do the trick.

Given my druthers, of course, the prayer and silences at St. John’s and the familiar liturgy made my heart sing. The first temple worship and the street worship seemed mechanical and transactional to me - and I also imagine that Anglican worship feels sterile to people who bring a grocery cart of food to please their gods.

Some of the significant images of HK are the ferries that ply their way across Victoria Harbor. They are large and people flow on and off them as they connect island with mainland, old with new, carrying executive and laborer. Maybe the ferries are the best icon of this incredible place, carrying and connecting, bridging easily, a part of the very fabric of HK.
Once again, Toto, this is a long way from home.

HK HARBOR

HK HARBOR

HK SKYSCRAPERS

HK SKYSCRAPERS

From th Peak

From th Peak

Temple of Absolute Perfrection

Temple of Absolute Perfrection

Chi Lin Nunnery

Chi Lin Nunnery

Temple worship

Temple worship

HK by night

HK by night

Posted by HopeEakins 07:14 Archived in China Comments (2)

Manila

storm 75 °F
View Sailing Around the World & Around the World with Bill and Hope on HopeEakins's travel map.

Manila is overwhelming, as is true for all cities of X million people, but the contrasts are particularly strong in this place. Perhaps our experience was colored by the heavy rain that poured on us all day, the result of the typhoon that has finally passed us by. Perhaps it was the way the cultures of the Philippines bang up against each other - American, Spanish, and indigenous (Tagalog) traditions and language all in play. Perhaps it is the youth of the population (some huge per cent are under 25) who bring energy and speed (and behavior that is in striking contrast to the friendly charming kids of Borneo and Bali). Parts of Manila are third world; the Makati business district is as grand as mid-town Manhattan.

Another dramatic contrast is between St. Augustine’s church in Old Manila, part of a massive 16th C monastery with many cloisters and chapels and oratories and crypts and and and .. all filled with elaborate religious art. Large platforms on carts hold six foot statues; the aisles are dotted with Saints like Rita whose stigmata bleed; chapel altars bear one Mater dolorosa after another, all dressed in black with shiny tears dotted on their cheeks. Why would anyone want to be a Christian here? The focus is on pain and sorrow and suffering and acquiescence to the same because Jesus suffered too. Even Jesus is always depicted as bloodied or manacled or knocked to the ground - and he never never smiles, even after the Resurrection. And speaking of the Resurrection, the Filipinos have a special revelation that Christ appeared to his mother before appearing to Mary Magdalene, and a large sign describes the special part of the Easter liturgy that proclaims this unique knowledge. Understanding the religious expression of other cultures is difficult, but this one seems summed up in the sign near tables in the church garden: WALL OF MARTYRS PICNIC GROUNDS.

Church #2: Holy Trinity Anglican, in a spiffy residential district, part of our Episcopal Church (how nice to see our BCP and Hymnal there), totally unadorned (kind of a blessed relief) but actually a bit sterile for this exuberant culture. A retired Bishop (David Someone) now serving as Rector, kindly welcomed us there.

Then to the American Cemetery, set on acres of immaculately landscaped lawns, given by the Philippines to the US and maintained by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. A small chapel in the center anchors circular walks that connect over a hundred tall (12-15 feet?) walls bearing the names of those missing in action. There are almost 40,000 names with their states of origin and military ranks, etc! The walkways are punctuated with the seals of each state and the names carved on the walls include 2 Eakinses, one from California and one from South Dakota, and a Howlett from California. The volume is staggering - and these are just the lives missing in action in one theatre of action. When you raise your eyes beyond the structures, you see the 17,000 crosses that stretch across the land, each with the name of a brave or scared young man who died far from home - and the thousands whose bodies were recovered but never identified. And this is just ONE of the Philippine cemeteries where American armed forces are buried. Two thoughts pounded in our heads. 1) The sacrifices of these soldiers and sailors are well honored; the graves are beautifully and reverently cared for; we can be proud of our country that still puts flowers in the cemetery “from a grateful nation” and promises to work so that those who give their lives for others will never be forgotten. 2) There is no way anyone can walk through a military cemetery and see war as other than a tragedy. We wept, openly and inconsolably, all the while we walked in this impressive place. The sheer number of young lives lost in one place in one war is staggering - -- if we worked as hard at peace-making and gave as much, surely it would be worthwhile. Couldn’t/shouldn’t we have a Department of Peace along with a Department of War?

Completing our day in Manila, we went to the Mall of Asia! Another grand contrast. And now we are in a very rough China Sea crossing to Hong Kong with waves higher than the dining room windows and plates crashing off tables. The captain says we have passed by the typhoon and are being buffeted by a monsoon. Hmmm.

Fallen Jesus

Fallen Jesus

American cemetery graves

American cemetery graves

American Cemetery - Missing in Action

American Cemetery - Missing in Action

Posted by HopeEakins 23:19 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

Borneo

where you can't wear red because it excites the orang utans and you can't wear jewelery because the orang utans steal it

storm 85 °F
View Sailing Around the World & Around the World with Bill and Hope on HopeEakins's travel map.

Borneo defies description. Sandakan has never recovered from WWII and all the post-war construction is covered with streaks of black mold/mildew. The high rise buildings have broken windows covered with sheets with MUCH clothing hanging on little lines; their corrugated metal roofs are patched and stained. The commercial areas of the high rises are decidedly third world. The people are undaunted. They smile and wave and practice their English - which is quite good. They look at you curiously and we are told that the object of their scrutiny is the noses of Westerners because their own are quite flat (I don’t see much difference myself). We were privileged to visit Buli SIm-SIm water village, about a mile from the city center. The village is built on stilts out into the sea. Garbage is picked up from the houses 2x/day and from the sea every 3 months. The water beneath the houses is thick with filth and plastic bags. We visited a businessman’s house - at the end of the village so it had expansion possibilities. In the house were toilet rooms (pipes discharged right into the sea beneath the house), many LARGE fish tanks holding eels and crabs and Amazon fish, an open area where boats hung, a living room space with a huge TV and speakers and leather sofas, a couple of office areas, a plastic bucket with scrub board where a woman was doing laundry, a space where engines and motors were under repair, a large area with picnic tables. Walking to and from this “mansion” we encountered many many many small versions with adorable children on the decks.
In town were: market stalls with all sorts of dried fish, odd chickens, unfamiliar vegetables, and bananas; Buddhist temples, a mosque, and St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church! In 1942-3, Australian and British POWs were held in the church before they began their death march (6 of 2000 survived), so there are many many touching memorials and windows given in their honor and in thanksgiving for the people of Borneo who aided them. Also - an Anglican middle school - and here you thought we were through with all that!
We are sailing to the Philippines where a typhoon has just hit. The Captain says we will skirt it and only encounter a tropical depression, although the boat is rocking a lot.

Finally - attached is a photo of our last dessert - served at a luncheon buffet. Sorry, the website won't load any more photos. The discrete little card by the lovely dessert read "CUSTURD CAKE"

Water Village

Water Village

Water village street.

Water village street.

Street view

Street view

laundry room and fish tank room

laundry room and fish tank room

Garbage

Garbage

Dessert

Dessert

Posted by HopeEakins 03:12 Archived in Malaysia Comments (2)

Bali

sunny 90 °F
View Sailing Around the World & Around the World with Bill and Hope on HopeEakins's travel map.

Leaving Bali. We’re in Asia. What a remarkable culture and landscape! As we sailed into the (very narrowly dredged) harbor, fishermen standing on sandbars dangled their lines only a few yards from the ship. On the pier were a gamalan orchestra and graceful dancers in ornate costumes swaying and bending to the sound. The orchestra was the first clue about the communal nature of Balinese society. There was no music, no conductor or concert master, just costumed folks playing percussion and wind instruments, gongs and xylophones of bamboo, in concert, sort of. Apparently there is no key, and the tonal jangle is part of the genre. Players come and go at will and smile as they enter and leave.

Then we visited a “typical house” for a family (of 3 generations) which is a compound of units in a walled garden: an open kitchen, bed”rooms” which are a bed on a garden platform surrounded by a half curtain, a large temple (each family house includes their own temple), a porch with large set of shelves where everyone’s clothes are folded in the same place. The land on which this compound sits belongs to the community. Taxes are paid on the value of the structures only.

The community consists of 30-50 families, a sort of super-family that attends all weddings, funerals, namedays, etc/ Children belong to the community and can be disciplined by any member. If there is any bad behavior by a child, the family is shunned (not spoken to); someone who commits a crime must leave the community. This would be hard because Balinese names are GivenName + BirthOrder + Community Name (I think it would be something like Hope First WestEndHartford), so all the given names must be different in each community. (The name also includes one’s caste, in a way I don’t quite grasp.) Re funerals: bodies are wrapped and buried in shallow graves. After 4 years (of decay) they are dug up, cremated together and the joint ashes placed in coconut shells and thrown into the sea (and most Balinese don’t swim or go into the waters that surround them).

On Fridays, all the women of the community clean the temple and patrol the streets to make sure that families have cleaned their yards to meet the community standards. The teens give one day a month to cleaning community properties, like the community center where well-baby checks are held weekly and celebrations happen. In the middle of this center was a chest of sarongs which were wrapped around us before we could enter the temple.

Regarding temples ... The family temples dominate the landscape inside their compounds. At the beginning of every day, women carry large trays of artfully arranged offerings (maybe 50?) of a flower petal and rice grain on a leaf and place them on all the nooks and crannies of the statues and in little shrines. The large community temple (the one we visited was built in 942) is used only every 210 days, but cleaned every week. Priests must be married and over 50 years old. If a priest dies, his wife inherits the priesthood.

Our guide Bawa, source of all this information, told us that there’s almost no crime and no poverty in Bali. Children start school at 5 and study 7 days a week. On Sundays they learn music and dance and art. Bawa, a high school graduate, spoke excellent English, was insightful and organized, and his interest is comparative religion. He says that Balinese Hinduism (96% of the population is Hindu) is eclectic and adopts the good in all religions, even celebrating Christmas. Balinese greet each other with the prayer that peace and harmony may bless them, and they depart with the prayer that their encounter may further peace in the world. Balance, says Bawa, is the goal of the Balinese. There will be good and evil in life - the task is to discover the good that can come from evil, accept the evil, and work to grow beyond it.

Along with listening to Bawa’s commentary, we visited a wood-carving studio and a batik studio, saw rice paddies, and went to a fabulous lunch at Puri Wulandari Resort, an extraordinary place on a hill with beautiful views. During lunch, more gamalan and dancing; in the long open air corridors red and white and green flower petals were strewn where we walked and infinity pools spilled down the hillside. Scented towels, lotus ponds, and many gifts - we returned with a woven basket, a wrap, joss sticks, a candle, a dish, a puppet, and a palm fan.

All in all, an amazing day with people so nice and hospitable and gracious and helpful and gentle that I wish the world had far more of them! We gave thanks for them - and for you all - at our worship service Sunday evening.

Bedroom

Bedroom

Offering

Offering

Rice paddy

Rice paddy

On the pier

On the pier

At lunch

At lunch

Posted by HopeEakins 20:01 Archived in Indonesia Comments (3)

Perth and beyond

Back into the water

sunny 95 °F
View Sailing Around the World & Around the World with Bill and Hope on HopeEakins's travel map.

We are now two days into the voyage from southwest Australia to Bali. We led a brief Ash Wednesday service (with ashes combined from St. James, Farmington, and St. George’s Cathedral, Perth) on board the whisper as we slipped out of Fremantle late on February 13th, and for a quick change of ace celebrated Valentine’s Day as we travelled up the Australian coast on the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. Today we are somewhere off to the west of Australia’s Great Sandy desert, and it is very hot indeed. Most passengers are avoiding the broiling sun of the open decks.

In leaving Australia, we are leaving behind a country that although very different from the USA in some respects, nonetheless has much that is familiar - people who look like us and speak our language, who enjoy a culture of affluence and share with us western European traditions of architecture, dress, worship, government, and cuisine. Now we are headed for “the mysterious East” (although we have bought and posted a large Pacific-centered wall map that keeps us ‘oriented’”) to visit lands and peoples where we expect to feel much more like foreigners. We are excited and intrigued by what awaits us! WJE

Re photos: At the General Post Office, in the very center of the stunning city of Perth, a great plaza is filled with people and kids playing “outside Daddy’s office.” At the welcoming Anglican Cathedral, a large statue of St. George and the dragon towers. Note George’s lance rises like a flagpole; the rest of him and his dragon aren’t as easily discerned. And at the Supreme Court Law Museum, a display tells us directly that the gavel has NEVER been used is the courts of Western Australia. Why do you suppose that is? HHE

Playing in Perth

Playing in Perth

St. George's Cathedral, Perth

St. George's Cathedral, Perth

Gavel

Gavel

Posted by HopeEakins 01:03 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

An Aside

sunny 68 °F

So I developed a little cough and went to the ship’s doc who gave me some pills, five of them, in a little packet. MOORE MEDICAL, it said on the tiny envelope, made in China and distributed by Moore Medical LLC in Farmington, CT 06032, Reorder # 84465. This world is growing incredibly small! Hope

Posted by HopeEakins 04:11 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Adelaide

Bound for South Australia

sunny 75 °F
View Around the World with Bill and Hope on HopeEakins's travel map.

Off to Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, established by people with a real pioneer spirit - not convicts transported here but folks who bought a chance to start over. They landed seven miles from the new city’s (non-existent) foundations and had to lug all their stuff and kids by hand up the river. The road has an old hotel on almost every corner today - you can almost hear echoes of “But, honey, I can’t walk one more mile...”

We went first to an aboriginal center where we heard the diggeridoo played (our second experience of same after hearing Marty Sornborger’s skillful sounds in Barrington RI). Then to Penfold’s winery and to Adelaide where we discovered what matters most on this southern coast: sunglasses. Tiffany’s is prominently located and sells not a single diamond bracelet or carving knife - only and exclusively sunglasses.

Tiffany's in Adelaide

Tiffany's in Adelaide

Finally to the cathedral (Perhaps our readership is yearning for the day when we depart Christian countries and cease the discourse on cathedrals). St. Peter’s is a beautiful 19th C building built beside a cricket pitch. (They say it is famous because coverage of the game always refers to batting from the “cathedral end.”) It is well lit, has greeters and guides (on a weekday afternoon) and Zena, the gift shop lady who knows everything. The clerestory windows are vibrant and fascinating, and the best of all is the Magdalene window that celebrates the role of women in the Scriptures, the Church, and the social history of Australia. The images swirl in circles against the vertical mullions and every inch spills with symbols. We love it! And the photos show how they must pay for it all.

IMG_1380.jpgIMG_1401.jpgIMG_1402.jpgIMG_1379.jpg

Posted by HopeEakins 21:16 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

(Entries 31 - 45 of 67) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 5 »