This week on Offshore

I haven’t done one of these posts in awhile. It was prompted by a sudden recollection of running into a Japanese pop duo performing whilst a friend and I were wandering a mall during our weeks of being stranded in Okinawa – 3 years ago this week (I remember because it was around Valentine’s Day when we were in the mall… they were into Valentine’s Day in a big way in Japan). Then I wondered, what else happened this week on Offshore?

We finally left the Island of Okinawa and the wonders of its shopping streets. Crossing the South China Sea and experiencing a series of mishaps: snapping a fore stay, breaking the stove, and exploding anchor winch hydraulic lines, we finally ran up Chinese colours and entered the Yangtze River. There were possibly more boats than we’d seen all at once in months (or ever) and the banks of the Yangtze and Huangpo rivers were overloaded with boats and buildings, garbage and miscellaneous detritus. Finally, we were able to dock in Shanghai with a stunning view of Pudong.

SALTS

I have been associated with SALTS, the Sail and Life Training Society, for over ten years now. My first trip was a three-day coastal voyage in high school. I’ve been on board nearly every year since then. For two years, I worked for SALTS in the position of cook. Coastally, I’ve sailed all around the Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast/Desolation Sound as well as circumnavigating Vancouver Island at least once. Offshore, we circumnavigated the Pacific Ocean: Hawaii, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, China, Japan… I lived and breathed SALTS for those two years – at times literally never leaving the boat for weeks on end (the longest passage we had was 30+ days without sighting land). I had to miss sailing with them this summer because of school, but I am looking forward to getting back on the water next season. It is hard work, but it is some of the most rewarding work one can ever do. Enjoy the short video. If you watch closely, you might pick me out once or twice in the offshore footage at the end.

Power and Authority

Today was good. I accomplished things: 4 chapters of anatomy, 2.5 hours studying chemistry, and 1 chapter of philosophy. I made Pad Thai for dinner and proceeded to eat far too much of it at dinner and just ate most of the leftovers when I got home half an hour ago. I have no self-control. I also listened to a cd I just got over and over and over again. It is by a former offshore trainee who sailed with us on leg 1. She would sing both the hold and foc’s’le to sleep every night with her songs and listening to it brought back great memories of her singing.

I also got to meet up with some friends I haven’t seen in ages tonight. The IVCF group on campus shifted their weekly meeting from Friday night to Thursday night (which meant I couldn’t go, not that I’ve been going to the Friday meetings either) and a good friend was speaking about her experiences in China. We first went to China together three years ago on the Global Partnership and she has been back twice, most recently for nearly a year. I couldn’t go to the meeting for reasons I’ll explain in a minute, but I met up with some of them at Tim Horton’s afterwards. Now that I’ve reconnected, hopefully I’ll be able to see some more of these girls again. We did Bible Study together during my two years at UVic and were on the IVCF leadership team together, and…

The reason I couldn’t go to the IVCF meeting tonight was that Tony Campolo was in town tonight and speaking at a church downtown. I believe he will be at Missionsfest in Vancouver this weekend. He was here on behalf of World Vision Canada so there was the usual push to sponsor a child, however what he had to say went much deeper than that. He started off talking about our inner spirituality (for lack of a better term or Campolo’s eloquence) and the importance of taking time to just be in God. That resonated because that is what I’ve been trying to accomplish over the last couple weeks. He talked about prayer and sitting in prayer, free of distractions and, again being.

He went on to bring things to a larger scale and challenged us that real change does not happen by us electing a “Christian” political party or having the right lobby groups or anything that we may be able to accomplish politically. Jesus didn’t chose to work that way, he was offered political power and rejected it. He was offered economic power and he rejected that too. (See Matthew 4.) What he did do was bring about a radical change through living sacrificially. And he had authority as a result. Power and authority: two very different things. One is commanded, the other is out of respect.

Where are we as the church? Do we try and command power by having people high up in the political proceedings or is our authority respected because of our track record for feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, giving shelter to those who need it, and visiting the sick. I don’t think that many churches could claim to have the kind of authority and respect that we should. We should be at the forefront of social justice but often we are too concerned with maintaining our building and declining memberships. What would it take for us to get back to a place of living sacrificially? I suppose, it is done as Mother Teresa said when asked how she was going to save the tens of thousands of kids on the streets of Calcutta: one person at a time.

The Children of Huang Shi

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon yesterday when our professional development day for work ended.  I decided, since it was a nice day, to walk home.  
When walking to and from downtown Victoria, I usually try to think of alternate routes to take so as to avoid Shelbourne because that street is quite busy and boring.  I ended up detouring up Richmond then Henderson to go to UVic because I vaguely remembered that Cinecenta, the UVic theatre was playing a movie I thought looked interesting.  I ended up arriving half an hour before showtime and was able to get a student discount, so in I went.
It turned out to be one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.  Set in China in 1937 (Massacre at Nanjing), the movie is based on the true story of British journalist George Hogg.  Hogg ends up taking care of about 50 chinese orphans at a camp north of Nanjing and eventually decides to move them all as the Japanese army draws closer.  These kids, with only push carts, walk 1000 miles to the desert in western China (200 miles past Lanzhou) to escape the approaching war.  While the story of Hogg is the main focus, one gets and idea of the three-way tensions that existed between the Communists, the Nationalists, and the Japanese.  
I thought the movie was really well done.  I found the story of this guy and the kids profoundly moving.  Shot on location in China for much of it, the scenery is absolutely spectacular.  It tugged at my heart and made me want to go back to China again.

Here to there and a bit of everywhere

Well, I`m back in Japan… Hiroshima of all places, to be exact. We arrived yesterday afternoon after a relatively flat passage from Shanghai. Which, is probably where I need to start because, well, its been awhile. I pretty much avoided Internet in China because of censorship (yay for not being able to get to my favourite news sites or anyone`s blog) and because net cafes there are smokier than a European bar if you know what I mean.

So… we left Okinawa on Valentines Day and, strangely enough, I was cooking. We arrived into Shanghai 4 days later after having everything go wrong (stove didn`t work one day, broke the thing holding one of the forestays up another which could have cost us a mast or two if the weather had been rougher, and broke the hydraulic line the night before arriving in Shanghai meaning our wonderful trainees and crew were up all night winching the anchor up by hand. I woke up and turned on the stove and made hot chocolate. Katie slept through the whole thing: she`s a good sleeper.) and sailed up the Yangtze River. It was grey, and dirty, and cold…

Ilya, Chris, Kara, Rachael, Sarah, and Elske cuddle to keep warm… we all look so spiffy in our crew uniforms which we have to wear arriving in any port. Now all we need are crew issue parkas, toques, and mittens for the next time we have such cold legs on Offshore!

Our poor pilot was freezing… I think he`s used to bigger boats with heated bridges.

Speaking of bridges, we passed under a cool bridge…

And suddenly, there was the skyline we had heard all about and were waiting to see…

The requisite Chinese men were there to stare at us as we came in. Apparently we look strange or something. You`d have thought they had never seen a tall ship crewed by white people before. Oh wait… we are a bit of a novelty everywhere we go. One gets used to a cool boat when it is your home!

And the local newspaper was there to take pictures (the photo is by Mr. Lu)

Then, we discovered that we had a sweet view from where we were docked.

By day…

…and by night… (yes, I was standing on deck when I took this one!)

I spent the day wandering around the area near the boat, saw narrow roads that reminded me more of China than the towering skyline of Pudong we could see from the boat.

I found the requisite markets, complete with animals, alive or dead. Unfortunately the alive ones (chickens, roosters, and ducks in this case) were crammed into ridiculously small cages)
And I also found a small Buddhist temple really close to the boat. I was the only white person, the only `tourist` there really. It was two days before lantern festival, the last day of spring festival or Chinese New Year, so the place was all decked out still and there were lots of people working their way around praying to all the various Buddhas. The smell of incense was, at times, overpowering, and its smoke filled the entire courtyard.
That night, I left to Beijing, the adventures of which the first 36hours or so were recounted for the log and posted here last.
So, the photos must follow…

The Train…
Picture 1: From the top bunk looking down, waaaay down. (Susan`s hand on top of Jose`s face, Antony and Sarah Luty bottom bunk left, Sarah Brizan in the green bandana…)
Picture 2: The corridor

Beijing… ICE!The Forbidden CityTienanmen Square
The amazingness of the night market…!


And, the Peking Opera!

Then it was off to the Great Wall for us! The four of us took a day package through our hostel that drove us up to Jingshanling section of the wall where we hiked roughly 10km along the wall to the Simatai section. Can I just say amazing! Probably the best wall I`ve done yet (and I`ve now been to 4 sections of the wall). About a third of the way in, the restored section ended and all of a sudden we found ourselves walking along a wall with no side walls and half the steps missing. It was a bit sketchy at times, but so dramatic. The wall is literally perched on mountain tops all along and in some places, the drop is almost straight down at least a couple hundred feet. Some of the classic shots you see of the Great Wall I am convinced come from here: we could see it snaking along the hills for miles.

(no kidding, eh? Some what was being cheeky!)




Then it was back home that night, Lantern Festival (after a quick stop at the night market once again!) for Sarah B and I. This time we were in the pure luxury of the soft sleeper compartment!


The post Beijing exploring of Shanghai will have to come at a later date. I`ve spent two hours on this already!

I do need to send out some big thank yous for mail: Thanks Jen, Lynne, and Nancy for the card in Shanghai, also Dad and Colleen for the package and Nancy for the letter. The newspaper clipping are being cycled through being posted on the crew head door as our sitting reading material. Now that its cooler, we don`t mind spending time in the head, its a little cooler now! Thanks to Bev for the card and to Jen for the letter and clippings as well. In Hiroshima, thanks to Nancy and Remi for letters and cards and clippings so far! The bodyless feet article is currently in the head…! Jen, Kelsey, and Adam, holy cow that was an amazing package and to whom do I owe the thanks for the stunning (and oh so becoming) yellow pants?!? Tav, the chocolate and mangos in the package to the crew were inspired genius.

Beijing!?!

Yay! We made it to Shanghai two days ago and now, all of a sudden, I find myself in Beijing! Crazy to be back here, seeing some of the same stuff I saw a year and a half ago but with different people and in a very different time of year (there is ice on the canals in the Forbidden City!). Still lots of fun. Bo asked that I send in some stuff for the SALTS log about what we’re up to so there is something else to put in other than the same ramblings around Shanghai that have been happening the last 2 days… so I figured I’d put it all up here. I don’t know if she’s going to use the whole thing, but if not, here it is in its entirety. (Saves me from having to be creative twice…!)

After some confusion as to which Shanghai Railway station we were to be at last night (lacking as we do the critical skill of reading Chinese) and following entertaining metro and taxi rides, Sarah B, Sarah L, Susan, Greg, and I arrived at our train with about 5 min to spare. Sarah, Sarah, Susan, and I were sharing a 6 bed cabin with Antony and Jose, who were already quite comfortable on the lower bunks when we arrived. We chose to travel by “hard sleeper” which means that the train cars have a long, narrow corridor down one side with small “cabins” (with no doors) off of it. Each cabin has 6 bunks – 3 on each side. I ended up on a top bunk which was just above the top of my head when standing on the floor (about 6 ft up!). The bottom bunks are the only ones with enough head room to sit up on, meaning that head space in the middle and top bunks is practically non-existent. In fact, if I removed my head, the height probably would have been perfect. Climbing up to a top bunk is also a tricky prospect which is best done with lots of caution. Fortunately, we are sailors and have a lot of experience in navigating sticky situations while moving in all possible directions. At the end of each train car is a hot water tap for instant noodles (with the warning “Be careful to scald” in unfortunate Chinglish written above the tap) as well as two toilets of the squatting variety. Jose learned the hard way that one should always wear shoes when using the head on a train. Oh, and toilets in China are all BYO TP, trains included… which means we are all carrying around packages of Kleenex in our pockets. After breakfast of “jidan chaomien” – egg fried noodles – which I got from one of the carts roaming up and down the aisle, we packed our bags for our arrival of 9:40 am. Saying goodbye to Antony and Jose, the four girls headed out to the hostel we booked just minutes away from the Forbidden City. Our walk to the hostel took us down a shopping street I remembered from last time I was here a year and a half ago, it is fun to see things and remember where I am. Our hostel is situated in one of Beijing’s hutong, neighborhoods of narrow stone alleyways and low stone/wood houses (which are typically little more than one room with a dirt floor). Sarah B and I both agree that it is one of the nicest hostels we have ever stayed at, and its location makes it even more quaint. After checking in, we walked over to the Forbidden City, where the emperors used to live in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1300’s-early 1900’s). It is called “forbidden” because no one except people the emperor allowed to enter could. The Forbidden City is one of the largest palace complexes in the world and it stunningly gorgeous. The buildings are vivid red with golden roofs and intricately carved wood work painted with gold and brilliant shades of blue and green. It is a series of sections inside of each other getting progressively smaller, until you end up in the Imperial Garden where the Emperor and Empress lived in a palace. From the Forbidden City, we walked down to Tienanmen Square, the largest square in the world. It was crazy to think of the history of that square and to realize we were standing in it. People were flying kites and others were trying to sell us random souvenirs we didn’t want or need. Many we looking around and taking pictures like we were. A square like that is such an anomaly in China where everything is packed in on top of everything else. It was like a breath of air in the middle of the city, but not because it of the history. We ran into Chase, Raven, Chris, and Sean on our way back to the hostel and their group did much the same thing as us today, they are having lots of fun. On our way back to the hostel, we stopped at the night market for dinner. The night market is where food vendors line up along the street with food and cook it in front of you. We saw everything from sea urchins, squid, and starfish on skewers, candied fruit, dumplings and steamed buns, noodles… We mostly opted for the tamer items for dinner. Our evening entertainment tonight brought us to the Peking Opera, known more for its martial arts, acrobatics, and colourful costumes than its acting or singing… It was very entertaining and lots of fun. There were two short story lines playing tonight; one about a “white snake” guard assigned to protect an important general and the other about a sneaky soldier who steals silver for the poor from a corrupt official. It was lots of fun. Now we are all back at the hostel, taking turns through the shower, our first since Okinawa, and I think it is my turn…!

Hooray for guanxi!

Today I went down to W Broadway to the Chinese Consulate to get visas for our crew because we need to get them before we arrive in Shanghai on the boat next February. I got there between 9:30 and 9:45; the embassy opened at 9am. The room for visa applications was already full of about 200 people, mostly sitting down on long benches like they have in train and bus waiting rooms. I was one of maybe 4 white people in the room and I felt like I was in China: all the signs were in Chinese, all I could hear spoken around me was Chinese, all the people were Chinese, I was taller than everyone, and it was very crowded. There was a sign at the entrance to the room saying “No numbers today.” Great, a free-for-all, Chinese style, of people trying to get visas (or so I thought). I surveyed the room for a few brief seconds before deciding to stand in one of the short lines at one of the two windows for visa applications, dreading wasting my entire day (of 5 very precious days off) at the Chinese Consulate. A very forceful white lady inserted herself in front of me: “What number are you?”
“The sign said no numbers today.”
“Oh, there are numbers alright, I’m 791 [or whatever it was].” She proceeded to enlighten me that they had already run out of numbers for the day – people started queueing at something like 6am in the alleyway. Well, I was not about to come back at 6am tomorrow morning, so I decided on trying my luck at today. Fortunately, the SALTS office had been in communication with someone at the consulate and had given me a letter, signed by our executive director, introducing me to them. I stayed in line, budged in front of people (in the Chinese way, of course) saying that I just had to speak with Ms. Whatever-her-name-was and saw no other way to do so. The best part was an elderly Chinese man, not in the queue, encouraging me to budge in.
I got up to a window and presented my letter (thankfully, I’d worn my Pacific Grace shirt today, one more identifier of me with SALTS) and said that my company had been in contact with someone at the embassy and I was here and didn’t know how else to speak with her. The lady at the window disappeared with my letter into the back for a few minutes. I spent those minutes hoping no one would discover I had no number and shoo me away. She reappeared and simply asked me if I had the completed form. I pulled all 15 applications out of my bag and pushed them under the window.
After a few minutes of explaining that, yes, I am not going to China until February and I know that is a long way away, however I will not be able to get the visa between now and then because I will be out of the country, she informed me that I had to change all of the visa applications to a multiple entry, 1 year visa. As long as it is the one that costs the amount of money for the company cheque I have on me, I don’t care what visa it is! I scooched to the side, unwilling to give up my place at the window in case I never got it back, and changed all 15 applications before shoving them under the window again. After stapling all the photos on to the applications, and removing all the paperclips, she smiled at me and said “You pick up on Friday, okay?”
“That will be just fine!”
Half an hour after I entered the Consulate, I was walking back down Broadway, laughing to myself for a good two blocks: guanxi is alive and well in Canada as well as in China and I am very glad I had that letter.