Monday, March 31, 2008
1. We experienced our first and last tendering operation during the voyage. Our lifeboats were turned into tenders transporting 100 people at a time from the ship to the dock and back again every half hour. We were bumped from our initial anchorage due to to the arrival of a Cunard ship on its' maiden around the world voyage that started in
2. I found
3. Starting at 7:00 p.m. at various locations in the city, night markets emerge to address the shopping needs of traveler's and natives alike. The night market we spent most time in was said to have 1000 vendors in stalls lined up along a main street for two kilometers. Coupled with the vendor stalls were many outdoor food courts that offered tasty wares from 15 to 25 hawkers preparing and selling a rich variety of foods. We were told in advance that
4. On Easter, we visited two Buddhist temples across the street from each other. One was the Dhammikarama (constructed by the Burmese) and the other was the Wat Chayamang Kalmaram (constructed by Siamese). During our visit, we received a family blessing from a Buddhist monk in residence during a Buddhist Water Festival. In the evening, there was an Easter service developed and conducted by students on board the ship. No Easter egg hunt or Easter baskets but a few chocolate bunnies did find their way on board. The birthday of Muhammad was being celebrated throughout March so the mosques were crowded and surrounded by lots of security personnel.
5. We stayed off ship for two nights in a wonderful resort on the beach. Didn't do too much except chill. It was nice to have a break from the ship, but it was equally as good to get back on board. Penang and
6. We bunkered in
The country is famous for it's production of natural rubber and tin. Fifty percent of the world's palm oil is produced in
Our port city was
"Hawker food" is the thing here. These are street vendors that are found throughout the city and in a sort of food court where many tables and chairs are surrounded by a collection of stalls with cooks preparing fresh food cooked to order. This was my favorite slice of life in
Stacey -March 25, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
A quote from Sarah MacDonald that says it all:
"India is beyond statement, for anything you say, the opposite is also true. It's rich and poor, spiritual and material, cruel and kind, angry but peaceful, ugly and beautiful, and smart but stupid. It's all the extremes. India defies understanding, and for once, for me, that's okay."
Stacey's List: March 17
Stacey's List: March 17
It overwhelmed my senses with vivid, lively colors of saris and flowers among crumbling, filthy, buildings and streets,
machine engines and horns constantly honking (as a courtesy),
the aromas of polluted air, garbage, sewage, incense, sweet curry and jasmine,
the excitement of transportation, especially auto rickshaw rides, gritty dirt billowing and sticking to sweaty skin,
the challenges of negotiating daily for almost everything,
hot, hot curries, condiments, and peppers that will make you sweat and cry,
beautiful, dark skinned people who have a genetic ability to head bobble,
emotions for the many, many people living in very extreme poverty,
wonderment at the resiliency of these people.
How do you walk away from so many beggars?
I recall big cities in the US, with transients, homelessness, and people asking for handouts. This is multiplied exponentially in India. It permeates the fabric of this nation. Rural or urban, nice part of town or not, poverty is everywhere. In India the beggars do not appear to be transient or homeless. Their home may be the shack down the street with tin sides, a sooty, black, palm frond roof, dirt floor and no belongings. The beggars in India do not sit and ask for money as you walk buy, instead they follow you, tug at you, talk to you, show you their hungry children. If you do give them some money, it is not enough, they ask for more and signal fingers to mouth.
Upon arrival in India we had a Diplomatic Briefing from the US Consulate. They gave us some very good and helpful information on how to survive a visit to India. They recommended that we do not give handouts or money to beggars, as it will draw more of them, create a mob and become dangerous. If you felt a great need to give something to a beggar, the suggestion was to give one person something as you are quickly departing. I am haunted by the faces of the people I did not give enough to and those that I tried to ignore.
It is so hard to know the right thing to do. The government has built small houses with stucco walls and solid roofs for many of the slum dwellers. NGO's have organized training programs for women and education for the children. We were able to visit a well established colony where the families moved from the slum to the housing 20 years ago. In organized small groups the women have received micro-credit loans to start various businesses. They feel proud, empowered, independent, and confident that they can do such things on their own, where before the move, they were totally dependent on their husbands. They have cared for their small homes adding on sections and tiling the floor. They have a bed, electricity, running water, toilets, a TV, and even a computer. This is a success story. However, convincing other slum dwellers to relocate seems to be a major obstacle. India is trying. India has a very long way to go.
Squat toilets. I successfully avoided them in India. But we are onto Malaysia and the other ports where I might not be so lucky:)
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Port Louis, Mauritius
A tiny, densely populated island in the Indian Ocean, to the east of Africa and Madagascar. 720 square miles, dormant volcanic mountains and craters, beautiful beaches and ocean colors similar to the Caribbean's many shades of turquoise.
No thanks to the Dutch who were the first to colonize Mauritius, the Ebony forests were exploited and the dodo bird, eliminated. Now extinct are 50 native and endemic plants, with 155 more species critically endangered.
The majority population today consists of Hindu Indian, followed by Creole, French and English. Mauritians take pride in the fact that theirs is one of the most successful multi racial countries, co-existing in harmony. Sugar is the main crop, followed by tea. Tourism, textiles and financial services are thriving as well.
As we walked into town and through the streets surrounding the Central Market, the streets were packed with people, vendors, scooters and many things for sale. It was crowded, and dirty, and loud, and very colorful. The air was filled with various scents ranging from body oder to fresh cilantro. This seemed to be sort of a preparation for our next port, India. The food market was mainly vegetables, herbs and fruit. Locally grown mini pineapples and bananas were deliciously sweet. You could eat the pealed pineapple like fruit on a stick, holding the green top and munching the fruit, dripping with juice. yum! The fish and meat markets next door were quite an experience, and I must say, were not as foul smelling as I expected. The textile and craft market was on the other side of the vegetable stalls. The market stalls ran the length of the entire block.
Maha Shivratree, a religious festival celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva, was taking place during our time in Mauritius. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims, walk long distances, carrying the "Kanwar", wooden arches and platforms, covered with flowers, and religious statues. Hindu devotees converge at the sacred lake, the Grand Bassin. It is believed that this lake is connected to the Holy Ganges in India. The pilgrims take holy water from the lake and partake in ceremonies of prayer. There are stations along the path offering food and water to the pilgrims. We got as far as the huge Shiva statue and temple at the top of the mountain. The chant, "Um Shiva" was piped through huge tents via loud speaker. Many pilgrims were resting, praying or eating in these tents. Unfortunately, the weather was really nasty with strong winds and horizontal rain. We were not prepared with jackets and such, so we did not go further to the lake in the crater of a volcano. Instead we ate with the pilgrims and took in the many sights, sounds and experiences.
For such a small island, it is interesting how the weather can be so dramatically different. At sea level the beaches were sunny and hot.
We took a catamaran trip to snorkel at a reef that was somewhat disappointing to those of us who have experienced better. The next day the kids and I went to a school for troubled teens. Project Teen Hope offers teens another chance at learning English, French, basic interview skills and craft making. As these kids failed in public school, the hope is to show them alternatives to prostitution and drugs.
If you ever come to Mauritius, I would recommend the Central Market experience in Port Louis, the mountains on a clear day, the beaches (when no threat of a cyclone) and of course, the Shiva festival. Our next stop is Chennai, India.