A Travellerspoint blog

THE SEYCHELLES - MAHÈ

Flowers and turtles, Coco de Mer and a beach

sunny 90 °F
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Mahé is the largest island in the Seychelles, a whopping 17 miles long by 5 miles wide. We docked in the capital, Victoria, deep in a beautiful bay ringed by mountains. Travelling over the “mountain” five miles to the Jardin de Roi Spice Garden took half an hour. We were rewarded by seeing vanilla, nutmeg, pepper, and allspice and gorgeous tropical flowers in a scruffy garden inhabited by several giant tortoises looking dirty and slow. But then that’s probably what giant tortoises are like. While we enjoyed a lemon ginger drink, Bill was given a Coco de Mer nut to inspect. Then another half an hour to cross the island to the west coast where we swam at the Côte d’Or. More turquoise water and white sand. One could get used to this!large_cd357970-5488-11e9-9d6d-2fe17615c718.jpglarge_e4e2b920-5488-11e9-9d6d-2fe17615c718.jpglarge_c42a4220-5488-11e9-9d6d-2fe17615c718.jpglarge_e1c4b040-5488-11e9-9d6d-2fe17615c718.jpglarge_08b2f770-5489-11e9-9d6d-2fe17615c718.jpglarge_037b0f40-5489-11e9-9d6d-2fe17615c718.jpglarge_cb044190-5488-11e9-9d6d-2fe17615c718.jpg

Posted by HopeEakins 07:26 Archived in Seychelles Comments (0)

THE SEYCHELLES - PRASLIN

AND THE COCO DE MER

sunny 93 °F
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The Seychelles, like the Maldives, are tiny and gorgeous, ringed with white sand beaches, dotted with palm trees, indented with beautiful bays, and surrounded by coral reefs. The waters of the Indian Ocean are various shades of turquoise and aquamarine, and the sand is finer and softer than sugar.

Praslin (pronounced "PRAH-lih) is the second largest island in the archipelago - about seven by four miles. In its center is the Valleé de Mai, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only place in the world where the Coco de Mer grows in the wild. We stalked that tree in the park, and on our way saw geckos and wild parrots and chameleons on the fronds of the smaller trees, but it was hard to see a whole tree because they grow to be well over 100 feet. They grow slowly and produce one huge frond per year. When the females are 25 years old, they make a flower. If there is male tree nearby and the conditions are right, and it is taller than the female (the pollen wafts down), the flower gets fertilized and over the next many months, the nut develops. That nut bears an uncanny resemblance to the female pelvis and looks like somebody should put clothes on it. General Gordon (the one who located Jesus' tomb in a quirky little garden in Jerusalem) located the Garden of Eden here in the Valleé de Mai. The nut, he said, was the fruit of the tree of good and evil, but we think it would have been hard for Eve to handle, weighing 60 pounds or so. The path through the forest was magical; despite the heat (90+ degrees), the huge canopy of fronds kept us quite cool.

Post-hike we drove to the Anse d'Or and plunged into the enticing waters of the Indian Ocean.

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Posted by HopeEakins 04:16 Archived in Seychelles Comments (0)

THE MALDIVES

Islands struggling to stay above water

sunny 92 °F
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The Maldives are an incredible assortment of too many islands to number. Besides, some of the islands appear and disappear with the tides and rising sea levels. Some places look like picture postcards of tiny tropical islands, some have fabulous resorts, while the capital city crowds onto its island (Malé) so completely that there’s no room left. The Maldives are a strongly Muslim nation with mosques everywhere you look. The primary goal of education is printed on walls and signs everywhere: Practice Islam. It’s hot here; we are almost on the equator, and the women are covered head to toe in black (well, sometimes purple). Each island has glorious beaches. On islands open for tourists, one beach is designated the Bikini Beach and is hidden by screens so that foreign swimwear doesn’t offend or tempt the residents.

Not too many women are visible on the islands we visited; the women are working while many of the men relax in swinging chairs. The metal/wood chair frames are ubiquitous, dangling from trees and planted on every street corner. Hope liked the one that was nearby when she was offered a coconut to drink.

We tendered in to overcrowded Malé and then took a HIGH speed boat to Gulhi. We visited a spiffy school with charming children, appreciated the beach and flowering trees and admired the mysterious Maldivian alphabet, Dhivehi, written right to left like this: ދިވެހިބަސް. We looked in on a large shipyard that builds and repairs fishing boats using a combination of ancient and modern techniques. The job of fisherman is very prestigious, handed down in families and earning more than twice the income of desk jobs.

Then we were off to Maafushi where women cooked our lunch on a grill (red snapper) and in iron pots (eggplant curry). One of our company looks as exotic as the locals. Actually, we have a number of exotic companions. The three pictured below came with eighteen pieces of luggage which apparently include large numbers of costumes and headdresses.

After lunch we went to the Bikini Beach. Hope didn’t have a bikini with her, but it’s hot here (remember) so she went into the beautiful warm Indian Ocean clothed – and almost managed to get dry before we got back to the Whisper.

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As Hope was trying to post this blog (ship’s WiFi service is terrible!), Bill was doing the ship’s crossword puzzle. 40-down was defined as “Ecstatic cry at church” and was five letters long. He thought of Alleluia but it wouldn’t fit, so he kept on working. 40-down turned out to be “Bingo!” Some days proclaiming the Good News is a hard slog.

Posted by HopeEakins 21:38 Archived in Maldives Republic Comments (1)

A TASTE OF CEYLON TEA

On the road from Colombo, Sri Lanka

sunny 90 °F

We're back near the equator again. Our coats are way in the back of our closet. It was 90 degrees today. After docking in Colombo, we took a short tour of this capital city and saw it emerging brilliantly from its troubled past. Twenty-six years of civil war ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2006. That conflict killed 100,000 people; the Asian tsunami of 2004 killed 35,000. We see great change since we were last here (in 2013 and 2016); buildings are rising on the horizon, and Colombo has one of those tall towers (this one for communication) that are a trademark of booming cities in the Far East. Everyone seems to know whose is taller than whose. The nice thing in this city is that the new construction is surrounded by beautifully landscaped grounds. The distinguished colonial buildings are being renovated, and highways under construction are already lined with ironwood trees.

Seven of us and our guide took a van to the Rayigam Tea Plantation, about a two hour trip from Colombo. The van had a driver (on the right) and an assistant driver (on the left). The assistant climbed over his seat from time to time and distributed water to us; he helped us exit the van - and in the north, he jumped from the van to put a coin in the "till box" to beseech the Buddha for safe travel for us all.

The plantation was lovely. Tea bushes fill the hills and valleys and are interspersed with acacias that provide some shade for them. Tea is picked all year; every new shoot is plucked off so that the plants are only allowed to grow 3-4 feet high. The pickers are absolutely tiny women. The tallest was no more than 4' 6". They have been brought from South India because Sri Lankan women don't like to do this work. The women (not young) pick about 40 pounds of leaves a day and toss them over their heads into large bags strapped to their backs. One was talking on her cell phone as she plucked. The tea is emptied into strapped sacks,, carted up three floors to a "withering room" where hot air is blown through it for eighteen hours; then it is pushed through holes to the second floor where it is rolled and then fermented. On the first floor, it is dried, sorted by color and grade, then processed and packed. Tea is the backbone of the Sri Lankan economy, and huge amounts of tea are shipped from here. We had a little tea tasting, slurping it from a spoon and then spitting it into a spittoon. We prefer cups.

We stopped to see rubber trees yielding latex on our way to the former plantation owner's house and lovely garden where the tea service was remarkably improved and amazing flowers and fruit hang like cannon balls from the trees. Hope discovered a plantation chair with wings on which to rest one's feet.

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Posted by HopeEakins 05:12 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Sri Lanka

and Polonnaruwa

sunny 104 °F
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Who knows where Polonnaruwa is? We didn’t have a clue until we went there, and our trip was almost as long as the name. We docked at Trincomalee (another unfamiliar place) on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka and then travelled 2 ½ hours to the center of this country where there is a triangle of World Heritage sites. The other two are Anuradhapura and Sigiriya. They are all former capital cities of Sri Lankan kingdoms, and we called them the A-place, P-place, and S-place. The long trip was fascinating. We stopped to see a wild elephant drinking from a lake and a herd of small buffalo, essential to the economy of a region that produces buffalo curds. Hm. It took a long time, but having seen these lumps of white on roadside stands, we think that curds must be like mozzarella. The signs are no help. The official languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhalese and Tamil which have letters like this: සහල ජාතය.

Other wildlife fills the roads and parks: charming monkeys, fluttery butterflies, and scary cobras. The snake charmer below entranced his pets with his flute for a while until one got angry (didn’t like the tune?) and turned on him. The charmer then tossed one cobra around his neck and worked hard to get the disgruntled one back into its (small) box. The photos were taken from a considerable distance away.

The temperature that day was 104 degrees, and it was humid. Polonnaruwa’s ruins are vast and stretch over a wide area. After all, this was a city that flourished in the 12th century (same time as Angkor Wat in Cambodia). We saw amazing irrigation systems established by the construction of a mammoth lake (see below) with discharge carefully regulated so that the rice paddies can be flooded. Huge castles, huge Buddhas, many steps. Did I mention that it was hot? We stopped for lunch at the Deer Park Hotel and had huge Sri Lankan beers. We saw the former Temple of the Buddha Tooth Relic but we were slow so we had to give the Lotus Bath a pass. Shucks.

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Posted by HopeEakins 06:06 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

WORSHIP SERVICE & SERMON

Sunday, March 24, 2019

sunny 78 °F

WORSHIP aboard the Silver Whisper on March 24, 2019, The Third Sunday in Lent

HYMN: Holy, holy, holy

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 have grace and power to accomplish them faithfully; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A Reading from the book of Exodus

Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (20:1-17)

Psalm 25: 3-9

Oh, how I love your law! * all the day long it is in my mind.

Your commandment has made me wiser than my enemies, * and it is always with me.

I have more understanding than all my teachers, * for your decrees are my study.

I am wiser than the elders, * because I observe your commandments.

I restrain my feet from every evil way, * that I may keep your word.

I do not shrink from your judgments, * because you yourself have taught me.

How sweet are your words to my taste! * they are sweeter than honey to my mouth.

Through your commandments I gain understanding; * therefore I hate every lying way.

A Reading from the first letter of John

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. (2:2-4)

A Reflection The Reverend Hope H. Eakins

Rules: they’re a part of life. Our parents taught them to us, our schools printed them up in student handbooks. We had to learn them to get our driver’s licenses. And here on the Silver Whisper we have them too. “Do not throw anything over the side of the ship.” “Deck chairs cannot be reserved.” “No shorts after 6:00pm in indoor venues.” Do not throw bulky objects into the toilet.”

Now there is a great difference between the rules our parents and schools taught us, a great difference between the rules for safe shipboard life and the commandments of God. The Ten Commandments are much, much more than moral advice, social nicety, and practical strategy. The Ten Commandments are a matter of life and death. Their function is not to keep life running smoothly and keep us polite but to constitute a people and form them into a community. The commandments tell us who we really are, and they prod us to become the people we ought to be.

The commandments are not harsh directives sent from on high by a distant tyrant. Rather they are sent as help from a loving God to give us signposts on the journey of life. The Ten Commandments are not ten different laws. They are one law in ten forms. “I am the Lord your God … therefore do this and do not do that.” The commandments are the details; “I am the Lord your God” is the main thing. First comes God’s rule, God’s reign over us, and then come God’s rules.

Take the commandment to honor the Sabbath Day. Keeping holy one day out of every seven is a regular way of keeping life in its proper perspective by taking time off to rest and worship, to renew our spiritual batteries through time with God and the people we love. God gave us this commandment so that we might enjoy life, play, and give thanks. It’s a commandment that God has given us to bless us.

Take the commandment: You shall not bear false witness. God’s commandment forbids public and political lying, lying to protect your job, lying to get ahead by ruining the reputation of another, or lying to sell goods or make a profit. Such lies erode the foundation of truth. Organizations and families break apart and decay when members are not truthful with each other. Life is hell when lying becomes a way of life. Therefore people of God may not lie. The first and maybe the most important thing American children are taught about George Washington is that he did not lie about chopping down a cherry tree. And although historians have told us that there is no evidence that this incident really occurred, Americans continue to remember it because it is a powerful story of the honesty we believe to be foundational.

Take the commandment: You shall not steal. It is about much more than not snitching candy bars from the super market or lifting a towel from a hotel bathroom. The prohibition against taking what does not belong to you is rooted in the concept of a God of justice who provides the resources of the earth to be shared by all the peoples of the earth. It condemns those who do not pay their employees a fair wage or a nation which spends more money on one day of war in Afghanistan than in a whole year on aid to Africa.

Or take the commandment: You shall not commit adultery. Sexuality is a gift from God, a part of the way God has made us. Sexual attraction and sexual relationships teach us about love, about God. But sex without love is not Godly. Trivializing sexuality, making sex a means to advertise merchandise, pornography and prostitution teach us of the power of lust, not the love of God.

God gave us the commandments for a purpose. As best we can reconstruct the process, when a loose confederation of migrants found themselves in a temporary encampment beside Mt. Sinai, God called Moses and gave him the tablets of the Law. Suddenly those desert dwellers became the Israelites, a people brought into being by God when they were given a code by which to live.

When this people was exiled in Babylon, they mourned “how can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Well, the Jews did four things in their Babylonian exile to maintain their identity. They circumcised their sons. They kept dietary rules. They ate a Passover meal to remember their rescue from Pharaoh. And they tried to keep the Ten Commandments. They kept them partly as a practical moral code but more importantly, they kept the commandments as the values and customs of a people whose God had redeemed them from slavery and given them their identity.

The Jews knew that God’s forgiveness is not an issue. If you break a commandment and repent, God will forgive you. But if you forget the commandments, then you will forget that there is a God who will forgive you. You will forget who you are, how you got here, and what you are about as a people. Sabbath, diet, the Passover and the Law. People who honor these things are Jews in whatever culture they happen to find themselves.

Rudyard Kipling wrote in his poem Mandalay

Ship me somewhere east of Suez
Where the best is like the worst
Where there ain’t no Ten Commandments
An’ a man can raise a thirst.

Can you imagine living without the commandments? Can you imagine having a God who doesn’t care about how we live? Can you imagine living “where the best is like the worst?”

Thank God for the commandments, for every single one of them, and incline our hearts to keep these laws.

The Prayers

Almighty and merciful Lord, you have brought us out of bondage and commanded us to worship you alone. Keep us from false choices, from worshipping wealth and prestige, comfort and ease. Make us faithful to you and you alone.
Incline our hearts to keep your law.

You have commanded us to keep holy the Lord’s Day. Deepen our gratitude for times of leisure and reflection and use our worship this day to mold and strengthen us for your service.
Incline our hearts to keep your law.

You have commanded us to honor our parents. Lead us to honor all those who have guided us in your ways. Give courage and understanding to all who hold positions of authority and give integrity and godly vision to those who seek public office.
Incline our hearts to keep your law.

You have commanded us not to kill. Guide us in the ways of peace. Look after the crew and passengers of the Viking Sun as it founders and guide the rescue teams. Make us good stewards of the riches of creation and of the people you have entrusted into our care. Keep us from reckless and selfish choices and give us hearts and hands ready to serve those who are in need, those who mourn, those whose lives are in peril.
Incline our hearts to keep your law.

You have commanded us not to steal and not to covet what is not ours. Deliver us from greed and bestow on us a sure sense that you have given us enough to share.
Incline our hearts to keep your law.

You have commanded us not to bear false witness. Make us honest and trustworthy people; save us from gossip and slander and give us loving hearts.
Incline our hearts to keep your law.

Summing up all our petitions and all our thanksgivings, we pray in the words Jesus taught 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

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: How Firm a Foundation

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

Expected time of next service: March 31st at 5:30 pm

Posted by HopeEakins 01:37 Archived in Sri Lanka Comments (0)

Kuala Lumpur

A Confession

sunny 90 °F
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The last port at which we called was Port Klang, the access point for Kuala Lumpur, the capital and financial center of Malaysia. We had a chance to visit the magnificent 88-story Petronas Towers, to see Hindu temples, mosques and our lovely Anglican cathedral. We could have gone to the Batu caves (and climbed 272 steps that are filled with monkeys and monkey-business.) But we didn’t. Instead we took the ship's shuttle bus to a mall in Port Klang and bought paper clips, Post-It notes, and Scotch tape. On the way out we looked at an over the counter menu at a MacDonalds and saw everything familiar but the Salted Egg Yolks in the photo below. And then we came back to the ship.

How can we be half way around the world and be so blasé? “We’ve been there before” is no excuse. It was difficult to get to KL and took quite a while, but we should have made an effort. Since we have no photos of sites to share, we offer you pix of lavatory signage, an idea for musicians who can’t find a parking space, a way to get noticed that needs a sermon preached decrying it, and finally a sweet shot from our suite that shows the pilot boat pulling away from the ship (the pilot is on the back deck) as our reading lamps are reflected on the glass.

Next port: Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. We’ll be there!!

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Posted by HopeEakins 06:14 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

SINGAPORE

Good things in a small package

sunny 98 °F
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Singapore is a small country. Very small: 26 x 10 miles, and 23% of that area has come through land reclamation! Singapore (population 5.6 million) has the second highest population density (after Monaco) in the world. It is immaculate (they jail you for chewing gum), safe, and beautiful with incredibly innovative and artistic buildings and infrastructure. There are four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil; English is the lingua franca. Singapore has no natural resources – its success has come from making itself a tech center and a trading center. The people are highly educated, healthy and visionary – and at the same time, very socially conservative. Filial piety, discipline, respect, and a strong work ethic are important. We really like everything about this place except its immigration procedure. Long lines and few personnel gave us a 45 minutes wait to get off the ship and an hour to reboard. We think immigration officers may deliberately cultivate an ominous aura to scare would be smugglers, etc.

Once off the ship, we travelled to the Fullerton Hotel, a monumental many-columned lovely building built in 1919 as the General Post Office. The Fullerton’s lobby is lined with huge vases that look like silk but feel like colored stone. On the roof is an attractive garden with an infinity pool through which you can see the swimmers’ bodies – a little peculiar. Also peculiar was the Singapore Slings we were served as welcome drinks at 11:05 am.

Along Singapore’s streets we passed the Fountain of Wealth, the largest bronze fountain in the world. The Asian countries we have visited are serious competitors in the "whose is bigger" game. The people also seem to be serious believers in the auspicious. The fountain pictured below is definitely auspicious for if you drive around it three times (we did) you will achieve great prosperity. Just you wait! We also saw the largest peacock (we are sure) to decorate a street corner.

Then we were pedaled in a trishaw through Little India and Chinatown. We didn’t feel too guilty that our driver was pedaling in the 98 degree heat when we discovered the power assist attached to the wheel. Back on the tour bus we passed by the Marina Bay Sands, a resort complex with a huge ark on its top, on our way to the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest (what else) observation wheel. During our thirty minute rotation we “flew” over the city, and it was absolutely magical. We could see way out across the Singapore Strait and right into the Botanical Garden domes. We also discovered selfies (see below).

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Posted by HopeEakins 23:33 Archived in Singapore Comments (1)

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