A Travellerspoint blog

February 2019


or Formosa or the Republic of China

rain 60 °F
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We have a sort of list in our heads, a list of places we have visited to which we’d like to return, cities or countries we’d like to know more of, see at a different season, spend longer getting to know. And then there is Taiwan. Formerly Formosa, now the Republic of China (vs. the Peoples Republic of China on the mainland.), Taiwan is the democratic holdout of the country led by Chiang Kai-Shek before its fall to Communism. Today, we are told, half the population wants to unite with mainland China because, after all, Taiwan IS the real China; the other half wants to declare itself independent so they can have the same political status as the other nations – and also have their name recognized and national anthem played at the Olympics. (Currently China refuses to have diplomatic relations with any nation that recognizes Taiwan.)

What Taiwan has going for it is this excitement about democracy, the enthusiastic people who yearn for visitors to love their country, its tidiness (no litter anywhere) and its advanced economy and educated populace. What we didn’t find was anything gracious or beautiful or fun or unusual. We were here for two days, first in Kaohsiung and then in Taipei and its port Keelun; on the second day it poured rain, which surely colored our impression. On both days we took tours with guides who shouted for hours. Either they think Westerners are deaf or the language is just pitched louder than anywhere else, but our ears are exhausted.

On Day One we visited Fo Guang Shan, “the largest monastery in the world.” It was built in 1981 and looks like a Buddha-land built by Walt Disney but never maintained. We were told we would see 1000 Buddhas and we did. Many were plastic and looked like Kewpie dolls; many were wire frames wrapped with colored muslin that had become moldy; many were poured concrete garden ornaments. The landscapes were well laid out and grand – and dotted with trees constructed of sticks wrapped with duct tape and covered with dusty plastic flowers and sparkly beads (look carefully at the photos!). We were told that here “the great is not necessarily great and the small is not necessarily small, the pure is not necessarily pure, and the impure not necessarily impure, the existent does not necessarily exist...etc.” The sound of one hand clapping suddenly seems comparatively simple.

We heard an explanation of the “Lenten festival” which had just passed and were quite confused until we were shown the Lentens – sorry, the lanterns which brightened up the day. The best moment was when a small boy knelt to pray before a giant Buddha. The city park had a lake with metal stanchions to provide waterskiing without a boat, and a pagoda. The pagoda had a lion door and a dragon door, and it was very important to go in one and out the other or otherwise it wouldn’t be auspicious. We have never heard the word “auspicious” said as many times a day as we did here. The best thing about the plastic pagoda was the tree next to it which looks like it is growing pickles.

The second day we visited a Confucian shrine and a Confucian temple. The shrine was like a museum which honored scholars and practitioners of the religion. At the temple, many different vendors sold offerings to the gods - food, flowers, and even fake money. These things were placed on altars designated for specific prayer requests, e.g. health, passing exams, finding a mate. Prayer papers were thrown into a furnace and wafted to heaven.

Then off to Taipei 101, the world’s tallest (101 floors) skyscraper from 2004 to 2010. 101 is a very auspicious building, that includes eight sections of eight floors each – because in Chinese, the word for 8 sounds like the word for prosperity. It was hard to see the top of 101 because of the rain.

Finally, a photo of beautiful bougainvillea and a tree with a fascinating root system.


Posted by HopeEakins 02:37 Archived in Taiwan Comments (0)

Corregidor in Manila Harbor

Does war ever end?

sunny 86 °F
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Corregidor is a small (two square miles) island in Manila Harbor, acquired by the US in the Spanish-American War in 1898. For the next forty years, the Americans built things there: barracks for more than 8000 servicemen – half Filipino, half American, gun batteries, roads, a railroad and trolley system, 2 schools (one for Filipinos, one for Americans) a movie theater, a baseball field, a swimming pool, chapel, and hospital. It seems that this fortification was motivated by the fear that there might be a war in the area some day. And there was. In brief summary, when the Japanese invaded Manila in 1942, the American and Filipino troops retreated to Bataan and then Corregidor, under General MacArthur. The Government of the Philippines moved there for a while, and MacArthur used Corregidor as Allied headquarters until President Roosevelt ordered him to go to Australia. MacArthur went, promising, “I shall return.” Lt. Gen. Wainright took command and held out until the Japanese forced the surrender of the remaining forces on May 6, 1942. Corregidor was not recaptured until 1945.
So the place is filled with the ghostly remains of ancient gun batteries and barracks (see WJE at the end of 12 inch gun barrel). The Malinta tunnel runs under the rocky mountain crags with two miles of corridors that sheltered the military and their supplies and their wounded for the weeks they held out against the Japanese.

Memorials and museums also abound. At the Pacific War Memorial, an altar sits beneath an oculus through which light lands directly on the altar at exactly 12 noon on May 6th, in commemoration of Wainright’s surrender and the courage of the allied troops throughout the Pacific campaign. The inscription on the altar reads:

Sleep my sons your duty done, for freedom’s light has come
Sleep in the silent depths of the sea or in your bed or hallowed sod
Until you hear at dawn the low clear reveille of God.

Nearby is a Filipino Heroes memorial and a moving statue of American and Philippine brothers at arms leaning upon each other (see inscription below).

What is surprising here is the Japanese Memorial Garden that serves as a place of prayer for Japanese veterans and their families. It was funded by Japan and built in 1987. It looks like it has been vandalized ever since. The Filipinos HATE the Japanese. On our tour of this island, we were shown photos of Japanese soldiers bayonetting babies, and told with angry indignation that Japan has NEVER apologized for the atrocities they committed during the war.

So ... on a small wall in a little museum is a photo of the cemetery where 4000 Japanese were buried after 1945. This is the only Japanese cemetery in the Pacific because the Japanese customarily cremated their dead and sent the ashes home to be interred. Eventually the cemetery disappeared from sight under jungle growth until 1985 when this photo was purchased at a tag sale in Portland, Oregon. The picture is indistinct but the location can be clearly discerned because of the mountain contours. The owner tracked it down and got permission to dig up the remains of the Japanese and cremate them and return them to their homeland.

We were very very touched by this gesture of compassion commemorated where anti-Japanese feeling surges high, and we told the tale to a fellow traveller and urged her to go see the photo. I guess we didn’t tell the story very well; she replied, “Hah, glad they finally got those Japs off the island.”

Shortly thereafter, emerging from the huge Malinta Tunnel and all its machines of war, Hope commented, “Imagine what the world would be like if we spent as much money and energy making peace as we do waging war.” The man beside her growled. “Listen, lady, the only way to get peace is to make war.”

Is there any hope? Yes, and it sometimes comes in cardboard boxes like those on the ferry we took to Corregidor. See photos below.

Another gift of the ferry is the prayer projected on the TV screen as our (two hour) trip to Corregidor began:

Prayer Before Travelling

Dear Lord, you once let the children of Israel walk through the sea with dry feet.
You showed the three Wise Men the way to your crib by the guidance of a star.
We beg you to grant us a good trip and a peaceful day.
Let us have your Holy Angels as escorts to arrive at the end of our journey in safety.

Lord, speak to us as we prepare ourselves for the start of this trip.
Along the way, be our consolation.
In the heat of the noonday sun, be our shade.
In strong weather be our protection.
When we are weary, be our companion.
In time of danger be our protection.
On slippery paths; be our sturdy staff.
On shipwreck, be our saving harbor.
Be our guide that we may reach the end of our journey and finally return to our home without misfortune.


lTE - 5 (1)

lTE - 5 (1)


Posted by HopeEakins 23:54 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)


Almost an international incident

sunny 90 °F
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Borneo is an island with three nationalities: the Sultanate of Brunei, The Malaysian State of Sabah, and Indonesia. Today we were in Sandakan, capital of the state of Sabah. Much of the middle class housing here is in stilt villages, built close together around common walkways, with televisions inside but no “plumbing,” a delicate way of saying that all the sinks and toilets empty in to the common sea.

Given its proximity to the water, you would think its markets would be filled with fish. Fish are indeed abundant here, but they are mostly dried, stacked, and very pungent. The huge wet market in Sandakan has stall after stall of dried fish bits, fish slices, fish fillets, bags of dried shrimp and anchovies. It also sells lovely vegetables and probably a hundred varieties of bananas and fruits we have never seen. Way in the back is the smaller fresh fish section – and it smells much better. Our guess is that Borneo may have lots of fish but it doesn’t have lots of refrigerators.

After visiting the market, we were off to St. Michael and All Angels, the Anglican church from which the Japanese started their prisoners of war on death marches (See this moving story in last Sunday’s sermon). The church is closed on Tuesdays. Too bad. Should churches be closed? But we saw the place decorated for both Chinese New Year’s and Christmas.

Next the modern (well, sort of modern) mall with kiosks selling contact lenses, where we decided to use the loos. We were in a mall, and there were male and female silhouettes on a sign– surely there were toilets ahead. We went down a long corridor that split left and right. Hope continued on to the female shape on the left, and Bill went to the right. No sign yet but surely this was the way to the men’s room. Then above an open door, he saw a pictogram with the shape of a man’s head adorned with a little Malaysian cap. Inside the door was a low trough with faucets arranged in a row above it. Surely this was a urinal. Bill looked around and checked out the next room. There were prayer rugs all over the floor. Surely this was a ---- mosque!!! And those spigots --- surely they were for foot washing. He left. International scandal narrowly averted.


Posted by HopeEakins 21:18 Archived in Malaysia Comments (1)

Elephas maximus

Rocking along on a howdah

sunny 87 °F

The elephant jungle park in northern Bali is beautifully landscaped and very well run. We attended an elephant show, got educated in a nice elephant museum, enjoyed a large Balinese buffet at lunch, fed the elephants --- and were very intrigued by the intelligence and interaction of these beasts. We were not enchanted by riding them. Nor did we purchase any of their original art (seen below).


Posted by HopeEakins 20:21 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Worship and Sermon

February 17, 2019

sunny 86 °F

Worship Service aboard the Silver Whisper, February 17, 2019

HYMN: The King of Love My Shepherd Is

The congregation joins in reading the parts in bold.

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ says: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. === (Matthew 22:37-40)===

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Let us pray. O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Psalm 25

Show me your ways, O LORD,
and teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me;
you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.
Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,
for they are from everlasting.
Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;
remember me according to your love and your goodness, O LORD.
Gracious and upright is the LORD;
therefore he teaches sinners in his way.
He guides the humble in doing right
and teaches his way to the lowly.
All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness
to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

A reading from the Gospel of Luke

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.‘ ===(10:25-37)===

Homily The Reverend William J. Eakins

On Tuesday we’ll be in Sandakan, in the Malaysian province of Sabah on the island of Borneo. There some of you may visit the Church of St. Michael and All Angels. Over the church’s main door, you will find the stained glass window on the front of this bulletin. The window tells the familiar and dramatic story of the Good Samaritan recounted in today’s Gospel. Let me tell you how that window came to be over the church door.

It was here in the church of St. Michael and All Angels that during World War II the Japanese confined British and Australian prisoners of war, men, women, and children captured in the surrender of Singapore. From the church the prisoners were taken out on a long death march. Of 2700 prisoners who left through the church door, only six survived. The rest died on the road.

The stained glass window was put up for two reasons: first, to memorialize all those prisoners of war brutalized by the Japanese and secondly, to honor and give thanks for the citizens of Sabah who tried to ease the prisoners’ suffering. Muslims and Hindus risked their lives to give comfort and help to total strangers. They smuggled food and water to the prisoners and gave them clothing and bandages for their injuries. When these helpers were caught, they were beaten severely or killed. What could be more appropriate to commemorate the compassion and bravery of the people of Sabah than Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan?

In Jesus’ day, the Samaritans were a people that the Jews regarded as foreigners and heretics. The irony of Jesus’ tale is that it is the outcast Samaritan who comes to the aid of the wounded man left by robbers at the side of the road, not the victim’s fellow countrymen. The priest and the Levite avert their eyes and hurry on. Perhaps they are afraid of being attacked themselves. Perhaps they do not want to be rendered unclean, unable to function in the temple by getting blood on their hands. So both the priest and the Levite find it prudent to ignore the wounded man. But when the Samaritan sees the man lying by the side of the road, he goes immediately to his aid. Heedless of the danger of lurking brigands, the Samaritan throws himself into cleansing the victim’s wounds and bandaging him up. Then he carries the man off to an inn and arranges for him to be cared for until the man recovers.

Jesus tells the story to answer a lawyer’s question, “who is my neighbor?” The lawyer wants to know the answer because he knows that God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. The lawyer wonders just how far this neighbor business has to go. The Good Samaritan story insists that the neighbor we are to love is anyone who is in need.

We live in a world filled with divisions. Religion, political affiliation, education, race, and cultural differences all too often separate us from one another. In such a divided world, Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan reminds us that no matter what we believe or how we worship or how we live, what God requires is that we love one another, especially that we love those who are in need and that we put that love, that compassion, into action.

It was costly for the people of Sabah to help the prisoners of war passing through their country, but they did it anyway. They didn’t question whether these British and Australian strangers were their neighbors. The people of Sabah didn't ignore the prisoners because the prisoners were Christians and foreigners. The people of Sabah just saw suffering human beings, and their hearts were moved to do what they could to help them, whatever the risk.

We are unlikely to run into any prisoners of war, nor are we likely to come across robbery victims lying by the ide of the road, but if we open our eyes and our hearts, we shall find neighbors in need all around us. What then will be our response? Jesus told us the story of the courageous, compassionate, and generous behavior of the Good Samaritan so that we will “go and do likewise.”

Prayers of the People

Open our eyes, O Lord, to see the needs of the world around us.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Open our ears to hear the cry of the poor.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Open our hearts to respond with compassion and mercy.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Open our hands to share the blessings which are ours.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for the world’s leaders, for the United Nations, for the World Court, for those in civil authority, for armed forces, for magistrates and officers of the law.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for soup kitchens and food pantries, for missions to sailors and the addicted, for homeless shelters and food banks.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for hospitals and clinics, nursing homes and hospices, senior centers and public parks.
Lord, hear our prayer.
We pray for teachers and mentors, clergy and therapists, bereavement counselors and social workers.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Give us wisdom to discern the ways we can serve the world in your name.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Give us courage to abandon our prejudices and think and act in new ways.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Give us strength to minister where you call us.
Lord, hear our prayer.
Give us trust that we have enough to share because your blessings abound.
Lord, hear our prayer.

We lift all our prayers in thanksgiving for your Son Jesus who taught us to pray

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge of God and of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and may the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be with you now and always. Amen.

HYMN: Love divine, all loves excelling

Officiant: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins
Preacher: The Reverend William J. Eakins
Altar Guild: Jane Kline, Directress; Jill Ingham
Music: Alex Manev

Expected time of next service: Ash Wednesday, March 6th at 9:15 am

Posted by HopeEakins 01:43 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)


Some observations

sunny 86 °F

We were welcomed to Bali by exotic dancers, a gamalan orchestra, and stunning flora. Bali is the only Indonesian island (remember, there are 17,000 of them) that is predominantly Hindu. As we travelled around this fascinating place, en route to an elephant camp (stay tuned for photos tomorrow), we learned a great deal about the life and customs here, not much of which can be made into a coherent story. So here are some factlets ...

1. The folks are preparing for New Year’s Day on March 7. On March 6, they will celebrate Noisy Day and 1) prepare dinner for the next day, 2) make a heck of a racket and 3) parade effigies of the evil spirits and burn them at the sea. On March 7, they will be quiet. No work can be done; no one is allowed to travel, and there will be no moon. Everyone stays home and reads and meditates, and tourists are confined to their hotels.

2. The life of the young is strenuous. All high school students are required to climb the highest mountain. At puberty, boys and girls undergo a tooth-filing ceremony. It seems that canine teeth are too pointy for the gods, so they need to be evened off and made flat. Generally six teeth are filed down, and that evicts six evil spirits: greed, lust, jealousy, anger, confusion, and ill-will. Sort of like the Six Deadly Sins. Pointy teeth are animalistic; flat teeth humanize you and make you able to control extreme emotions. Actually, the Balinese seem universally cheery and charming, helpful and kind. Who knows?

3. Babies have a hard time too. At the sixth month of pregnancy, the fetus is blessed and made a “good child”; without this blessing, terrible things happen. The child’s feet cannot touch the ground until 105 days after birth, and its birthday is calculated as the 210th day after birth. The placenta is considered a sibling to the child and is buried in the family compound. (I am not making this up.)

4. Naming is not simple. Each child has a family name (caste name) and a formal (family) name and a nickname (by which they are called). The first child is called “One”, the second child “Two,” the third child “Three” and the fourth child “Mistake,” and then they start all over again, so if there are more than three kids in a family, they share a name. And I am guessing that fourth children have some self-esteem problems.

5. Death is also pretty complicated. The body is cremated and placed in the family compound until the family saves enough money to bring the ashes to the sea for a ceremony. Once in the sea, the soul is released from the body but is “dangling” in a kind of limbo. That poor soul then undergoes many reincarnations until it finally collects enough good karma to go to heaven.

6. Motorbikes clog the roads. There are more motorbikes registered than residents, because most people have more than one. These are very SMALL bikes and they dart in and out of traffic, most with more than one rider. We saw one bike carrying a father, a child and a bathroom sink, another with a mother and THREE little children. Helmets?? Don’t be silly. On the rear of many bikes little pop-up shops are strapped on, complete with their merchandise.

7. The roads are dotted with shrines, mostly looking like fierce stone animals on pillars. In the morning, women bear trays to these shrines, each with fifty or so little squares of banana leaf topped with flowers. The women dart around placing their offerings on the edge of the shrines. The bottom of the shrines is often covered with large sheets of black and white gingham fabric (big squares) symbolizing the balance of good and evil. The Balinese are very concerned about keeping evil in check and not letting it get ahead of good. I guess they have never hoped for the triumph of good over evil.

8. Also seen along the roads are shelves filled with small bottles of benzin fuel, so that the bikers have drive-thru gas stations. One amusing collection was offered for sale in (obviously emptied) Absolut vodka bottles.

9. The Balinese are the producers of the world’s most expensive coffee: Luwak Kopi. They place coffee beans before civets (a kind of cat) and the civet chooses only the best beans to eat. After a while... the civet poops out the beans and some lucky soul gets to sort through the poop for the partially digested beans and roasts them. Sorry, we can’t tell you what this tastes like. We're eating on the ship, H&B

Posted by HopeEakins 22:38 Archived in Indonesia Comments (1)

Komodo, Indonesia

Going head to head with a dragon

sunny 99 °F

It was a beautiful morning when we sailed into Komodo, Indonesia, one of the more than 17,000 islands that compose this island nation. A gentle mist rose over the mossy green hills, and we were eager to see this place. But we were not to be fooled. WE knew that the fierce Komodo dragons lived here and danger lay ahead. So we dressed in long pants and long sleeves (nothing red because red excites the dragons) and slathered on insect repellant (because this island’s mosquitoes carry ZIKA virus). Our ship’s instructions were clear. We could only go off ship if we were with a Park Ranger, and menstruating women could not disembark because the dragons can smell blood from 6 miles away. People with open sores couldn’t go shoreside either. We checked ourselves very very carefully.

Our first attack came as soon as we got into the ship’s tender. Tenacious and assiduous vendors old and young pushed their wares right inside the boat, but we were strong and avoided a purchase. Then we entered the National Park and heard the rules: no loud talking because it incites the monsters, never step off the path because the dragons can dart out and attack quickly. The guides promised that we were safe because they were armed with brightly painted sticks ; they assured us that they could stave off any assault by pinning these 300+ pound 10 foot long beasts with their sticks and then snapping their necks. You can see a photo of one of those (green) sticks next to Bill’s walking stick below. We were not reassured.

Off we went on the path. It was very very hot (about 100 degrees). It was very very humid. “Stop,” we heard the guide cry. “There’s fresh dragon poop.” (Photo below) The brown center, he explained, was digested meat, the chalky white surrounding it was digested bone. The dinner of choice for a big dragon is a deer, which can be completely absorbed in 24 hours.

On we went through the jungle. It was hot. Humid. Nothing stirred. “Stop,” the guide said, and we saw a baby dragon skitter through the brush. Then a large wild boar. Then a yellow bird. It was hot. Humid. Finally we arrived at a watering hole where many Komodo dragons lay in the shade. They never moved, never blinked an eye. We stopped being scared. Then one dragon got up and started walking and flicked her tongue in and out. We all moved – quickly. Hope put her arm on Bill and he jumped in terror. The guide laughed.

It was hot. You can see how hot by checking out Bill in the before (by the park entrance) and after (with his walking stick) photos.


Posted by HopeEakins 02:15 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Goin' ah Dah-win

or, as New Englanders say, Going to Darwin, Australia

sunny 96 °F

It appeared that there are Biblical scholars all over the place here, given the signs about things NT, even weeds (this photo will likely amuse only those who have studied OT and NT in seminary). Here in Darwin, NT means Northern Territory. Darwin is in the NT, at the Top End of Australia. This means that it is very close to the equator and this means that it is VERY hot. We rose early and drove a long long way to the Adelaide River in Djukbinj National Park where we climbed on a boat offering a Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise. We were excited because our friends Doug and Jane Kline had been awed by meeting Brutus three years ago in the same river. We travelled for a long time until we met Roger. Roger, we were told, is a rogue, a sexually mature male who has not yet established his territory (Hmmm). Apparently Roger wasn't very eager to eat either. He never jumped, so we drove a long long way back to Darwin where we shopped because the stores are air conditioned. We found a splendid tablecloth painted with aboriginal art, and we'll see how it looks at 25 Scarborough Street.


Posted by HopeEakins 19:46 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

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