A Travellerspoint blog


and Capoeira

rain 75 °F
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Natal, Brazil is on the point of South America that is nearest to Africa, directly south of Greenland and quite close to the Equator. The city seems to grow as you watch, with high rise apartments and hotels rising up above dilapidated houses and dirty streets. Most doors are covered with metal gates and fences; people don’t stroll in parks. We saw few churches or government buildings, just endless apartments to house the population that is growing rapidly beyond its 1.5 million level.

Available excursions today? A ride in a dune buggy that could be con or sem emocao (with or without emotion); both options recalled roller-coaster rides with our children. A trip to the world’s largest cashew tree. A swim on a beach described as “no longer pristine but reasonably clean.” We chose to visit a school in a poor neighborhood (actually, most neighborhoods here look poor) that teaches Capoeira, a fusion of fight and African dance moves accompanied by twanging and banging and clapping. The Capoeira Master held the children’s attention and had obviously trained them comprehensively. The students looked from 5 to 18; they banged sticks and leapt over each other and somersaulted and ate fire and breathed fire. They got very close to each other but never collided. The foot in the photo was mere inches from my face. One of our group had brought a bag of the (very small) chocolate squares that get put on our pillows each night. After the dance, she gave the candy to the kids one by one. There were almost enough pieces for each child to have one, but we feared that there wouldn’t be. But of course all was well - the first boy unwrapped his 0.16 ounce treat and carefully broke it in half to share with the boy behind him.

We learned much of the plight of these kids who would grow up in abusive homes, malnourished and uneducated, without the help of this school. Although a statue of Christ with broken hands stands outside its walls, the school has no Christian financial support or connection. It was moving, however, to see Christ present though wounded, there to protect his children.

We declined to learn Capoeira ourselves, although several people from the Whisper tried and were quite skilled!

Next we were off to a prison atop a hill that is now a craft center, with small shops in the cells. We walked through with no intentions of shopping until Bill spied a pair of lovely leather sandals for Hope. They are beautifully made; they fit, and they were reasonably priced. Aha! Despite knowing only the words for ‘Thank You’ and ‘Hope’ in Portuguese, and despite having no Brazilian money, we managed to make a purchase. A mere twenty minutes later we sniffed the air. It is likely that these sandals left the tannery this morning. The odor of cow skin is permeating the cabin, and the sandals will sleep outside tonight.

Posted by HopeEakins 02:49 Archived in Brazil Comments (0)


sunny 85 °F


There are abundant animals on the Iles du Salut, agoutis, chattering monkeys, shy peacocks and peahens. Green vines and shrubs cover every rock tenaciously, but few flowers poke their heads up. We were fascinated by a display of moving flora - there beneath our feet an army of ants marched, each bearing a little white flower that was larger than the ant. You can see them in the third photo above, striding along, in some ways not too different from the prisoners who labored carrying stones above them.

Posted by HopeEakins 14:11 Archived in French Guiana Comments (0)

Les Iles du Salut with PHOTOS

A long long way from home

sunny 85 °F
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Les Iles du Salut, the Salvation Islands, are three tiny (total area is less than ¼ square mile) islands off the northern coast of South America. They are so named because missionaries escaped to them when the plague raged. Part of French Guinea, L’Ile Royale, St. Joseph, and L’Ile du Diable (Devil’s Island of Papillon fame) are picturesque and charming, famous because they are the site of a French penal colony through which passed over 70,000 prisoners shipped here from France from1887 to 1938. We walked all around L'Ile Royale. The stone work is lovely, the palms sway in the breezes, and the land is dotted with ruins like “The Penitentiary,” “The Condemned Prisoners’ Quarters” and “The Chapel.”

The east window in the prisoner-built Chapel is particularly interesting (although it was too bright to photograph). These prisoners had no hope of escape (shark filled water, dangerous currents, etc.); punishing labor and disease were part of their lives, and it seems like they had no hope. There is little decoration in the chapel: one stained glass window and a few damaged frescoes. The fresco of Mary holding a dead Jesus has almost disappeared, but a water pitcher and cloth are clearly seen and are clearly there to be used by the mother to wash her dead son. The window over the altar has the same shape as the pitcher, tipped to pour out its contents. Could it be that the prisoners’ only hope was that someone would care enough to tend them after they died?

Posted by HopeEakins 09:05 Archived in French Guiana Comments (0)



sunny 83 °F

Aboard the Silver Whisper January 12, 2020 at 9 am


The words in bold are said by the people.

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

Let us pray. O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the Peoples of the earth: Lead us,
who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ
our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. 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.
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 Gospel of Matthew

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to
Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its
rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem
with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the
Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall
come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had
appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have
found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set
out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where
the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the
house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their
treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream
not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. (2:1-12)

A Reflection by The Reverend William J. Eakins

This first Sunday of our journey on the Silver Whisper is the first Sunday after Epiphany (Twelfth Night) when we hear the story of another journey – that of the Wise Men, the Three Kings who followed a star to Bethlehem. I don’t know about you, but I have always thought that apart from Jesus, the Wise Men are the most interesting characters in the whole Christmas story. They were certainly the most exotic characters in the ceramic nativity set I remember from my childhood. Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds all wore plain robes, but the Magi had fur-trimmed capes of red and purple and wore turbans or jeweled crowns. The shepherds came to the manger with sheep, but the Wise Men came with their camels, bearing fancy chests and jars filled with gold, frankincense and myrrh.

How did such improbable travellers from afar end up presenting their wildly extravagant gifts to an infant lying on a bed of straw in a cattle shed in Bethlehem? I think those ancient travellers of Matthew’s Gospel have something to say to all who travel, and to us as we journey on the Whisper today.

I wonder how the Wise Men ever got going. Why didn’t they just stay home being wise? They had spent their lives in study. They were stargazers, searchers of the great lights of the heavens, attending to the appearance and the movements of distant bodies shining in the inky night. They were students of whatever of wisdom they could get their hands on, including, apparently, the Hebrew Scriptures. So with the words of promise in their minds and hearts, when they saw a new star blazing in the western sky, they recognized that it heralded the birth of a king. Nevertheless, the newborn king was that of a foreign nation, the King of the Jews, and the Wise Men were Gentiles. So why would they leave everything to honor the ruler of a foreign people who had neither land nor power?

And what kind of send-off do you suppose the Wise Men received as they set out on their travels? I imagine it was not one in which their friends came down to the camel depot, pouring glasses of champagne and wishing them bon voyage. More likely, the Wise Men's improbable journey began with their families and colleagues shaking their heads and saying, “I can’t believe that you’re leaving us to go off on this wild star chase.” The Wise Men probably had associates who counseled a more moderate course, one that advised waiting to see whether the star would burn itself out or change its course.

But the remarkable thing is that the Wise Men didn’t stay home. They got up on their camels to follow the star and travelled on and on until the star rested over the newborn King – an unlikely King born in a stable, but a babe whose holiness called the Wise Men to fall before him and pour out their gold, frankincense, and myrrh at his feet.

It is certainly an odd tale and a strange way to begin the story of Jesus, the Messiah’s birth. The Wise Men were foreigners, probably from Persia, the land now called Iran, and they were probably Zoroastrians. In short, they were of the wrong race and the wrong religion to inherit the promises of the Hebrew Scriptures. But the point is that the Wise Men got up on their camels while the chief priests and scribes of the Chosen People debated theology, developed rules of etiquette and texts of orthodoxy and kept their religion mainstream, balanced, and respectable, untroubled by stars and stargazers. Jesus’ own people must have seen the same star that the Wise Men did, and they knew the Scriptures that foretold Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem, a mere seven miles away from Jerusalem. Yet even though the Jews didn’t need camels to get to Bethlehem, they never considered leaving their splendid temple to find out what had happened in the barn down the road.

Those of us among the members of the establishment, the chosen, the insiders, have a lot to learn from the Wise Men. We need to learn that God’s activity in this world is a lot bigger than what takes place within the walls of our churches. We need to learn that we catch glimpses of God’s power when we humbly and expectantly look up for God’s signs, not when we look down at the familiar and predictable.

It takes people of faith and imagination to leave home and follow a star – like Noah who stock-piled a mountain of gopher wood to build an ark when there wasn’t even a cloud in the sky, and like Abraham who set his feet on the road to Canaan even though he had never heard of it. The Wise Men had a vision that was open to whatever God might make known. We cannot do what we cannot imagine. And in order to imagine we must have minds and hearts that are open to new possibilities that exceed anything we have previously known. This is true for us as individuals, as groups of people, and as nations. We have to be looking for the new things that God is doing in our lives and in our world, whether it be a new or restored relationship, a new way of behaving, a new way of seeing reality, or a new way of making the world a better place.

When those first followers of God’s star arrived in Bethlehem, they were moved to worship someone quite different from any King they had previously known. They worshipped a God made flesh, Wisdom in a Babe, Power in weakness. And as we learn to see by the light of God’s star, we too may well be surprised to catch glimpses of God in unfamiliar places and in people of different kinds, the prosperous and the poor, those with varying political opinions and sexual orientations, folks with influence and power and those marginalized by prejudice and poverty, faithful members of churches and those who feel that they are not rich enough or good enough to belong to churches. Where might we be surprised to find God?

After the Wise Men had worshipped, they got up on their camels to return home. Warned in a dream to avoid Herod, they returned home by another road. The same is true for all who find God in surprising places and surprising ways.

So here we are on the Whisper, people from different countries with different backgrounds and even different languages. And we are embarked on a journey that will take us among other people whose customs and ways of life will be new and strange to us. As we journey on in the weeks ahead, let us be like the Wise People of old, following the star of God’s promise, God's promise to be with us always. And if we expect to find signs of God in unlikely places and people and expect to be changed by what we find, we will indeed go home by a different way.

The Prayers

Gracious and loving God, as we begin this journey together, we pray for all who are away from home: for
refugees, for pilgrims, for those serving in armed forces, for students apart from their families, for those who are
homeless and forgotten. Give us trust that we are part of one family whose home is in you. Lord in your
Hear our prayer.

We pray for the nations of the world, for heads of state and members of the United Nations: give them wisdom
and courage to lay a sure foundation of peace across the earth. Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for this community aboard the Whisper: bless all who worship here that in their seeking they may find
you and that they may then show forth your love and mercy wherever they may be. Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

As we leave the safety of the shore, give us hearts thankful for the richness of our lives and give us a spirit of
generosity to share our blessings with those who are in need. Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

As we traverse the wide ocean, we give thanks for all that connects people across separations: for telephones,
the Internet, and postal services, for ships and trains and planes, and for the grace of compassion and tolerance,
understanding and mercy. Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for those who are sick and those who suffer, and commend into your care those whom we now name
silently and aloud ...... Heal and comfort them. Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray for all who have died, remembering Max Bellune, frequent traveler on this ship, Karen, his widow, and all who grieve, trusting in your promises of eternal life. Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

We pray also for ourselves: take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the
walls that separate us and unite us in bonds of love; give us penitent hearts that we may seek each other’s
forgiveness and yours. Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer

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

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all
evermore. Amen.

The Dismissal

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins, The Reverend William J. Eakins
Pianist: Lech Wos Altar Guild: Jane Kline Usher: Douglas Kline
Expected time of the next service: January 19 at 5:30 pm

Posted by HopeEakins 05:21 Archived in Venezuela Comments (0)


More church visits

sunny 80 °F
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After a night spent hurtling through tempestuous seas, we docked at the very calm Bridgetown, Barbados. Actually it is only the seas that are calm here, for there are FIVE huge cruise ships in port alongside our tiny little Silver Whisper. Each vessel holds over 3000 passengers; the Whisper has 310, the population of the country is 280,000, and every single one of those passengers seems to be on the streets. Our heads pound with repetitive calypso blasted across the water, and while we are praying to rejoice in the rich diversity of our fellow travellers, we haven’t quite succeeded yet.

We left the port to visit two old Anglican parish churches, St. John’s (1836) and St. James’ (1847). Both were spotless; both had loyal Altar Guilds at work preparing for tomorrow (Sunday); both had parishioners available to answer questions and praise their parish. In the photos you will see the fiber optic lighting of the cross beams in the nave, the organ pipes suspended in a chest, an intriguing light sculpture in a chapel and an inscription on a tombstone. On the indoor plaques our hearts were touched by praise of long gone clerics - my favorite: “He served the Lord with gladness.” Following the church tour (inevitable, right?) we had a fabulous lunch at Daphne’s on the beach. The menu: grilled barracuda (no bones, no teeth). It was delicious!

Posted by HopeEakins 14:21 Archived in Barbados Comments (1)

Puerto Rico

Revolution, etc.

sunny 85 °F
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Puerto Rico seems to have weathered its recent earthquakes quite well. At least folks in San Juan (on the northeast) say that the southwest isn’t badly damaged and that earthquakes are rare here, and hakuna matata or however you say it in Spanish. We walked from our pier throughout Old San Juan and visited forts and walls and castles and San Juan Cathedral, the oldest in North America, built in 1540. Our guide gave us a lengthy and impassioned interpretation of the demonstrations that toppled the government six months ago. According to guide Jorge, over a third of the population gathered daily and nightly and played music and danced and distributed food and drink to the marchers and painted graffiti on every wall, with many depictions of women banging pots with spoons. The demonstrations were only loosely organized but spurred and centered on a Feminist Collective (somehow stimulated by the (bad) governor's denunciation of women). This "party"demonstration seems to have been the culminating feature of this revolution. Whatever happened, the result was the toppling of a corrupt government and new hope for the future here.

The sea surrounding Old San Juan sparkles in the sun; some of its streets are made of beautiful (old) cobalt blue cobbles and houses are painted vibrant colors. There is NO litter. The guide’s interpretation: people here are proud of their country and do not experience racism or ostracism, while Puerto Ricans in the US often don’t feel welcome or valued and so they trash their streets. Who knows, but the streets here are clean and lovely. Maybe it has something to do with attracting tourists.

Posted by HopeEakins 13:52 Archived in USA Comments (0)

2020 Visions

On the way

sunny 81 °F


We left the beauty of The Breakers in West Palm Beach to embark on the Silver Whisper in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Returning to the ship is a wonderful experience. As soon as we boarded, people reconnected with each other. They caught up with stories in progress, wondered about the passengers who were not on this voyage, and generally settled into their suites. Our little home away from home looks quite spiffy; we knew where to put everything, so unpacking was quick and smooth.

The ship resounds with delighted cries of reencounters. “Oh, it is good to see you.” “We are so glad you are on the cruise this year.” Why is this so, this sense that in a way we are returning home? Maybe it is because relationships with fellow passengers are not like our other relationships. We come from different places; we have different lives. Our Trivia Team includes two friends from England, two from Australia, and two from Philadelphia, so we don’t have any common local focus. Political discussion is not highly charged as we work to explain to each other the fine points of Brexit and impeachment and the way the Aussie Prime Minister seems to get blamed for the wildfires there. We catch up on the stories that we left hanging last year – June’s son-in-law’s surgery, Jude’s book, Fred’s move. We miss Judy and say a requiem prayer for her, and someone we have never seen before shows us her ring and tells us that she got married this spring. Somehow, through the reconnection, we forget our irritations and remember our commonalities and rejoice that we are together. Somehow, we resonate with gratitude that we are privileged to travel with each other.

We are moved and pleased by the number of folks that have asked when the Sunday service will be, who tell us that they remember a sermon, and even that they started going to church at home. We rejoice at the staff that welcome us back – and the new staff that introduce themselves to us as though it is we who belong here!

We are isolated on the ship, sailing through the Atlantic. We get television news (sometimes) and a daily newspaper, half of which reports international sports and another quarter of which that reports business and entertainment, so not much space is left for in depth reporting on Iran/Iraq and the Puerto Rican earthquakes. We are particularly interested in the latter because we will arrive in San Juan tomorrow morning and we hear that they may have no water or electricity. We are troubled or disconcerted or at least very aware that we sail into this damaged port with abundance and profusion. God bless us all.

Bill and Hope

Posted by HopeEakins 14:14 Archived in Dominican Republic Comments (0)

Where are Bill and Hope Going Now?

2020 Itinerary

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We are in the midst of tucking the angels into their boxes, chunking the snow and ice out of the driveway, AND packing for the heat of the Caribbean and the cold of the Antarctic. Some of you have asked if we would post an itinerary for this winter's cruise on the Silver Whisper, so here it is below. Hope and Bill

4-5 January At The Breakers, Palm Beach

6 January Depart Fort Lauderdale
7-8 January At sea
9 January San Juan, Puerto Rico
10 January At sea
11 January Bridgetown, Barbados
12 January At sea
13 January Ile Royale, French Guiana
14-15 January At sea
16 January Fortaleza, Brazil
17 January Natal, Brazil
18 January At sea
19 January Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
20 January At sea
21-22 January Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
23-24 January At sea
25 January Punta del Este, Uruguay
26-27 January Buenos Aires, Argentina
28 January Montevideo, Uruguay
29-30 January. At sea
31 January Puerto Madryn, Argentina
1 February At sea
2 February Stanley, Falkland Islands
3-4 February Drake Passage
5-7 February Antarctic Peninsula
8 February Drake Passage
9 February Ushuaia, Argentina
10 February Cruising Chilean fjords
11 February At sea
12 February Puerto Chacabuco, Chile
13 February Puerto Montt, Chile
14 February At sea
15 February Valparaiso, Chile

15-16 February At The Ritz-Carlton, Santiago, Chile

17-19 February In Hobe Sound, Florida
19 February Home Sweet Home

Posted by HopeEakins 15:08 Archived in USA Comments (1)