A Travellerspoint blog

The Kingdom of Tonga


sunny 89 °F

The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of 169 islands, of which 36 are inhabited. All together, the islands occupy 300 square miles scattered over 300,000 square miles of ocean. It doesn't look like a tropical island, as the palm trees are mostly covered by vines and deciduous trees and there are no sand beaches. We toured the island of Neiafu in a Chinese bus that was likely 60-70 years old. You can see the upholstery below. The buswindows were wide open and as we traversed the lanes, tree branches whipped into our arms and faces. Almost all of the houses had a motor vehicle in the front yard - missing a hood, or wheels, or a door. These seemed to serve as storage sites or perhaps the "parts shop." Some houses had working vehicles as well.

Our charming guide Leyte took us first to Holy Hill, where, she explained, the Holy Spirit had descended one day in 1834. What happened then, we asked. "The people sang and danced and raised their hands and spoke in languages we did not know." It must have had a powerful effect because there is a church on every road. The country is deeply Christian; the established church is the Free Wesleyan, and there is even a little Anglican parish, St. Andrew's, with 30 members whose mission is to provide fresh water for their neighborhood. The Roman Catholic Church has unusual windows in the chancel; they look as if giants are standing outside peering in. The cemeteries are flamboyant with large banners picturing the deceased and giving the dates of their "sunrise" and "sunset." Finally, we learned that Sunday is indeed a Sabbath Day. Anyone who is caught working is jailed.

We visited the Kilikilitefua wall, a low heap of stones that is so overgrown it is hard to see (look carefully in the green photo below). Until about 1920, the wall was the census; that is, every time a boy was born, a rock was added to the wall (girls got small stones).

We also saw a cave and the Department of Revenue Services, but the island really has no tourist sites. Neiafu is a fascinating glimpse of beautiful and happy people who fish and farm and make crafts. There are no fences or barns. Our guide said that Tongans would never confine their animals. Cows, pigs, sheep and chickens run free and everyone knows to whom they belong.

Posted by HopeEakins 20:50 Archived in Tonga Comments (0)

Where oh where is Wednesday?

Worldly time

sunny 87 °F

We have lost Wednesday. Yesterday was Tuesday and today is Thursday, and ship's passenger Ralph Ponce de Leon (yes, that's his real name) had a birthday on January 23rd - but he didn't. Customarily, we put our medications in little pill containers - and Wednesday's capsules still sit there. The basic idea is this: sailing westward around the world, one gains an hour 24 times. There's no free lunch. That time has to be "paid back" one way or another, and the teller sits at the International Date Line and takes away 24 hours in one fell swoop. Check Wikipedia for a better explanation. This is a short week.


Posted by HopeEakins 20:36 Comments (0)

At Sea

Between Cook Islands and Tonga

sunny 80 °F

It’s a good thing we like sea days! We are beginning a three day journey from the Cook Islands to Neiafu, part of the Vava’u Group of the country of Tonga. It’s a long way from everywhere.

We occupied ourselves today with things like a knife skills demonstration, a wonderful presentation by Saroo Brierley, author of A Long Way Home, the story in the film Lion, and of course Team Trivia.

We marvel at how amazingly connected we are in this remote part of the wide ocean. E.g., our ship’s newspaper, the USA Times, an 8.5 x 14 page that purports to contain the world’s news (a miracle, given that it has 1½ pages of sports and ½ page of business), had a front page article today quoting Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin’s comments on the storm in the northeast. E.g.2, after son Bruce forwarded a notice from Walgreens that a blood pressure drug Hope takes had been recalled for containing a contaminant, the wonderful Dr. Antonio Fernandez (Hartford Hospital) sent an opinion about getting a replacement in Auckland. So we may be in the midst of wide waters, but we feel very close to you all.

Love, H&B

Posted by HopeEakins 16:44 Archived in Cook Islands Comments (0)


Cook Islands

sunny 80 °F

Rarotonga is the capital of the Cook Islands. Cook Islands is "an island country in free association with New Zealand." The relationship is confusing and sounds like that of a late teen with his parents, one not yet fully launched but encouraged to live on his own. The country is composed of 15 islands which total 90 square miles in area, spread over 2 million square miles of ocean. That isolation sounds extraordinarily difficult to us - imagine one hospital for the whole 2 million miles and having to fly or sail everywhere, but the folks take it in stride. They call Rarotonga the "mainland" (it's about 8 square miles) and hop on and off little planes, often in bare feet.

Gift stores are filled with motivational signs painted with adages like "The first to apologize is the bravest; the first to forget is the strongest; the first to forget is the happiest." The vegetation is lush and beautiful. The people are quite kind and quite quite large. (No pix because it seemed impolite to ask permission to photograph people just because they were obese.)

We took a wonderful plane ride across the island's green mountains and then went along the lagoons and reef and sea. Cook Islands is a fervently Christian country, the enduring result of missionary effort in the 19th century. The prominent denominations are Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Seventh Day Adventists.

Love, H&B

Posted by HopeEakins 16:12 Archived in Cook Islands Comments (0)

Worship Service and Sermon

January 20, 2018

88 °F

Aboard the Silver Whisper January 20, 2019
Graphic of outrigger. Hymn: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray.
O God of peace, You have taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be our strength: By the might of Your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that You are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Psalm 84:1-6

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! *
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; *
by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.

Happy are they who dwell in your house! *
they will always be praising you.

Happy are the people whose strength is in you! *
whose hearts are set on the pilgrims' way.

Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs, *
for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

They will climb from height to height, *
and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, *
and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

For the LORD God is both sun and shield; *
he will give grace and glory;

No good thing will the LORD withhold *
from those who walk with integrity.

O LORD of hosts, *
happy are they who put their trust in you!

A Reading from the letter to the Hebrews

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.” (11: 1,8-12)

A Reflection The Reverend William Eakins

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

We have seen evidence of such faith as we have been sailing through the far-flung islands of Polynesia. Over the course of some 2,000 years, the intrepid ancestors of today’s Polynesian people managed to spread themselves out across the vast reaches of the Pacific Ocean. What motivated those pioneers of centuries ago to take the risk of sailing out in their frail vessels beyond he horizon across the ocean into the unknown? Surely it must have been something very much like what the Scripture we have heard this morning calls “faith.” Like Abraham of old, those courageous and daring Polynesians were searching for someplace, somewhere that would be better than the place they were willing to leave behind. Those Polynesian explorers must also have had a reasonable hope that what they were searching for, they would find.

How much we need such faith as we face the unknowns of our life, things like cancer, divorce, death of a loved one, unemployment, retirement, financial recession, global warming, political conflict. The list is unending. How can we cope when the world around us shakes and becomes uncertain? Let me tell you a story.

It happened one New Year’s Day when my wife and I were vacationing at a dude ranch on the edge of the Sonoran Desert and took the ranch car to drive down to Mexico. We went the long way through Tucson to get there, but there was a much shorter and more direct route for our return. Just north of Nogales on the U.S. side of the border, Arizona Route 289 headed westward for about 20 miles to a place called Ruby and beyond there connected with a road near the Elkhorn Ranch. Route 289 looked a little narrow perhaps, but it was nicely paved, and we had a bright star in the western sky. All was well for about ten miles until the pavement ended abruptly and Route 289 became a dirt road. “How bad can it be?” we said. It may be a dirt road, but it’s a good dirt road and it’s only ten more miles to Ruby. So on we went as night fell. The road climbed steeply and became very rough. The potholes were wide and deep and filled with rain water. Up up we went along the edge of a deep canyon; the headlights sometimes shined against the other side of the abyss and other times they lit the night sky. We had no idea where we were and we had no GPS; all we had was that star. Sometimes it disappeared behind a cloud or behind the mountain, but it was always there. Mile markers still counted the way to Ruby, mile 18, mile 19, and mile 20, but even when we got to 20, there was no Ruby, just the eyes of animals reflecting our headlights. The temperature dropped, and the prayers we had been saying silently we started saying aloud. And then we saw the sign, a sign saying “Danger: Primitive Road Ahead, Proceed at Your Own Risk.” But we had no choice; there was no turning back now because there was no place to turn around. So on we went, looking for the star, reassuring each other, and saying our prayers, and finally, after driving some four hours to go 35 miles, we made it back to the ranch.

There are some important lessons about journeying into life’s unknowns in our Ruby Road adventure. First there is the essential importance of having a sense of direction. We knew where home was. As long as we kept heading west, we would eventually get to our destination. The same is true in life. We need to know where we are heading. Christians believe that we are on our way to heaven, the place where we shall see the One in whom we believe face to face. As our opening hymn puts it, we are pilgrims, travelling through a barren land, and yet as we journey on through life’s ups and downs, we are guided by a star, the promises of God in Holy Scripture and above all in the person of Jesus Christ. Christ is our model of the values that shall endure, and Christ is our inspiration for persevering in trying times.

Secondly, how very much we need our fellow pilgrims. I was very grateful to be with Hope as we made our way across the Ruby Road, grateful for her encouragement and support and companionship. Likewise as we travel on the wider journey of life, we need to know that we are not alone, that we are part of a community where we are known and loved. We need the strength that comes from being together to hear and reflect on the stories of our faith and to pray for each other and for the world.

And finally, we need to have the faith that God is with us, supporting us and strengthening us and guiding us. Fear not, says Jesus, and be not afraid because I am with you and will always be with you. Fear not.

The Prayers

Holy God, we offer our prayers for all peoples of the world. Raise up leaders who will govern with wisdom, integrity, and compassion. Give us courage to pursue the vision of liberty and justice for all.

Happy are the people whose strength is in you.

We ask your blessing, O God, on this worship congregation aboard the Silver Whisper and on the congregations from which we come. Deepen and strengthen our faith and work through us to accomplish your mission of healing a broken world.

Happy are those who dwell in your house

We pray for those in any kind of need or trouble: the sick and the lonely, the brokenhearted and the sorrowful. Relieve their suffering and give them hope.

Happy are they who put their trust in you.

Lead us forward, Lord God, into whatever lies ahead. As we continue our voyage this week, give us fresh glimpses of your abiding presence with us and with this world that you have made and fill us with joy and gratitude.

Happy are those whose hearts are set on the pilgrim’s way.

Let us now pray in the words our Savior gave us:

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 forever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing
Hymn: He Who Would Valiant Be

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins, The Reverend William J. Eakins
Music: Lech Was
Altar Guild: Jane Kline
Usher: Doug Kline

Posted by HopeEakins 17:39 Archived in French Polynesia Comments (0)

Bora Bora

Is it really snowing in Connecticut?

88 °F

Yesterday we called at Bora Bora. They say the island may be Michener’s Bali Hai. The island is stunningly beautiful – lagoons, beaches, lush mountains, motus (islets) forming a ring around an aquamarine lagoon – and it is pronounced Pora Pora (who knew). However, the coastal road is crowded with dusty dented cars and shop after shop hawking tourist wares. In the midst of the “town” is a Roman Catholic Church made of metal panels and chipped concrete. Interestingly, the first view upon entering is of Bora Bora’s mountains visible through the window above the altar. The stained glass shows Jesus (brown) and the evangelists (brown) and the people (brown) receiving sacraments from clergy (all white). Hm, and who are the outliers?

We trudged the street (Protestant church is closed; open only on Sunday morning) and decided to take a cab to Bloody Mary’s, the renowned local restaurant. Whee! Sand floor, delicious fish, and fabulous service. At least we didn’t have to see our fish being prepared --- as we did on the pool deck for lunch today. Pictured below is a moon fish, and we can’t tell you what it tastes like because we went to another venue to dine.

Worship this morning was lively and rich. Our new musician played well, and the congregation was engaged. We are very grateful.

Posted by HopeEakins 17:35 Archived in French Polynesia Comments (1)


Surely a Piece of Paradise

sunny 90 °F
View Bill and Hope 2019 on HopeEakins's travel map.

We are still in French Polynesia, now in the Society Islands archipelago, on the island of Mo’orea. It's beautiful, with jagged lush green volcanic mountains rising above sandy beaches. We swam in the clear turquoise waters of a beautiful lagoon and looked across the channel at Tahiti. And then we left at sunset, on our way to Tahiti.large_IMG_0623.JPGlarge_IMG_0619.JPGlarge_fullsizeoutput_34b4.jpeg

Posted by HopeEakins 12:34 Archived in French Polynesia Comments (1)


In the Tuamotu Archipelago in French Polynesia

sunny 95 °F
View Bill and Hope 2019 on HopeEakins's travel map.

We are a long way from home! We are anchored off Rangiroa in the South Pacific Ocean, and you need a geography lesson to understand. Rangiroa is an atoll, a collection of motus (little islets and sandbars) encircling a lagoon. Rangiroa has 400+ motus and the lagoon is 50 miles long x 15 miles wide, so you can't see one side of the atoll from the other. In the NASA photo below, the land is the tiny line encircling the lagoon, like a squashed letter O, with the ocean outside and the lagoon inside. About 2500 people live on this land "mass," a highly exaggerated name for the 1/4 mile or so of terra firma. We walked through charming arches of palm trees to a little cafe by the Tiputa Pass pictured below, one of two passes/cuts/guts (the tiny slits in the top of the photo just left of center) that allow ships to enter the lagoon. Although today is very hot and the water is an inviting turquoise, we declined a swim having been told that the lagoon is filled with sharks "for the most part harmless." Hm, "for the most part" seemed a little vague for us visitors. Love, Hope and Bill

Posted by HopeEakins 18:18 Archived in French Polynesia Comments (0)

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