Good Friday Recollections and Reflections

Good Friday 2008 I found myself walking in the way of the geishas, Buddhist priests and ascetics rather than the Way of the Cross.

Good Friday 2008 was my day off between legs 5 and 6 of the Pacific Odyssey Offshore: three months remained until I laid eyes on home for the first time in over a year. It had been a long and trying, yet rewarding and fulfilling voyage to date and, unbeknownst to me, the most trying was yet to come.

Good Friday 2008 also fell on the first day of spring. Everyone, it seemed, in Kyoto was out and enjoying the sunshine and cherry blossoms. Many people were wearing their kimonos to visit temples, as tradition dictates. I decided to join them.

Down the street and up a few flights of stairs from my hostel in Higashiyama was Kiyomizu Temple. Perched high in the hills for which the area is named, there is a stunning view of the city from its balconies. More importantly are the areas of the shrine where devotees have the opportunity to have wishes for health, wealth, and long life fulfilled or where the promise of finding true love is revealed.

What a contrast with walking in the Way of the Cross. No promises for health, wealth, and long life are given… instead, we are told to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ. Follow Christ? On comfortable Vancouver Island, perhaps not to the point of being killed, but we can still follow the way…

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…

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.

And We`re Off…

All going well, we leave tomorrow for Hawaii – a 3 to 4 week passage. I`m hoping for the 3. I`ve engineered things with Katie that I will not be cooking tomorrow, instead I cooked yesterday and today. I thought it was time for a change and not cook the first day out for the 6th leg in a row. How I love getting seasick that early…! We found Costco today and managed to shop without a membership (actually, we bought a membership, shopped, then cancelled the membership once we were done. The condition is that we cannot get a membership in Japan again for a year. I don`t think that will be a problem). They didn`t really have a lot of the things we were hoping for. Apparently Japan doesn`t use bleach. Anyway, we did find some things that we were happy to get and I now have a ginormous box of animal crackers in my `stash.` Don`t anyone tell the little Anderson boys or I will never have a second of peace.
Right now, I am hanging out on the free Internet in the hotel (Universal Port Hotel) right beside the boat hoping that Dad and Colleen decide to come home from church early (I think its 10 am for them, 7pm for me) and I get to talk to them on skype before I leave. Tomorrow will probably be busy with garbage going, fuel and water coming, and clearing out in crazy Japanese style.
Our new group of trainees seem like a lot of fun. This is our biggest turnover of trainees since Hawaii between leg 1 and 2. Having that many trainees for whom this is their first ever Offshore experience adds a certain amount of excitement and anticipation, despite the long passage ahead. I`ve sailed with 2 or 3 of them before and know a few others (siblings of Sarah, my old roommate and our WO on the boat). We have lots of food on board, so now I`m just waiting to go. I`m kind of over Japan, as much fun as it has been. One last stop to the santo tonight for the last bit of clean before we hit the open ocean. There is a nice American guy who we`ve run into at the hotel here who is over from LA working on a new show that just opened up at Universal Studios. He`s let us use his room for showers a couple times (which has been heavenly). He just walked by me here in the lobby and was telling me about the crowdedness on the trains in Tokyo (I was telling him that half of Japan was at Costco today). Apparently his translator, a tiny 90lb (ish) woman has had ribs broken on the trains in Tokyo. It gets that crowded. Yay for height and basketball rebounding skills.
And now, back to Kyoto, I ended up getting a kimono at the flea market after all! I found a really nice one for relatively cheap and so now I have a kimono. Don`t know when I`ll wear it, but it sure is pretty!
So wish us fair wind and good seas so that we make good time and I don`t have to start rationing food. These guys seem like big eaters so far…! I`ll talk to you in Hawaii in about a month or so!

City of Shrines, Temples, and Kimonos

So tried on a kimono today at this shop in Kyoto that sells used kimonos. It was very nice, but I decided that spending $100 on something pretty that I would never ever wear was somewhat superfluous. I tried to justify it by thinking that I would use it as a bathrobe, but that’s an expensive bathrobe. So I do not have a kimono. I do, however, have way too many photos of temples and shrines and other very cool things here. Today was a national holiday because it is the first day of spring. Last night, all the temples in the area where I am staying (Higashiyama = Eastern Mountains, really close to Gion, the geisha district) were lit up and open late to celebrate. It would have been awesome if it wasn`t for the fact that it was literally pissing down rain. I have never gotten so wet in my life. My jeans and shoes were still soaked this morning despite using an entire newspaper to stuff then last night. My gigantic umbrella gave up from overuse and began to leak so I had to buy a new one this morning to stay dry.
Today, I hit up a bunch of temples and shrines, mostly Zen Buddhist ones, which was a nice change from the ornate and over-the-top Buddhism I am used to from China. One had a large raked rock and large stone garden which, apparently, is famous for it aesthetic nature or something like that. Two of them were world heritage sites. Because of the public holiday, you could get into temples etc free if you were wearing a kimono so there were women everywhere in beautiful ones. At one of the temples, I was pondering the garden and I hear a `Gillian…?!?` I turn around, and there is Leighsa, our watch leader this leg. Of all the people in Japan, what is the chance?? To make the world even smaller, she is staying at a hostel in town with an Australian Katie and I met last week in Osaka. Craziness.
And possibly very exciting was that today I saw MONKEYS! Thats right, I saw Japanese Snow Monkeys. These guys are the furthest north living monkeys that exist and they are ugly. But, they are monkeys and they do what monkeys do, including jump at you and hiss while you are taking a picture so that your picture ends up one big blurr because you are so freaked out by it. From the hill where they were, there was a great view of Kyoto. It was a good wander up there.
My 2 days of Kyoto adventuring is over tomorrow – I head back to Osaka after lunch to meet up with the rest of the crew. Thanks for the tips, Colleen, we can compare notes when I get home and you can see how much has changed in 25 years!!

Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto… where did Leg 5 go?!?

Here I am sitting in Universal Port Hotel at Universal Studios Japan, using their free Internet. How did I get here?? The boat is docked just outside the hotel, meaning we get to hear the wonderful theme music day in and day out. The downside of this location is that we are pretty much in the middle of nowhere Osaka, but that is the price to pay for celebrity status I suppose. I`m getting pretty good at figuring out the train system here – I`ve even got optimum places on the platform to stand cased so that I get on and off the train in the right spot to make my transfer or leave the station. I know, I`m a geek.
Leg 5 is over in 2 days. Most of last week was spent grocery shopping and stowing quantities of food not seen since the dock in Victoria. This time, however, we couldn`t fit all the produce in the bunk… mind you, we had to change produce and can bunks around because of a starboard list, so the produce bunk is now half the size it used to be. Where were you, Jen, when we needed you! We now have some cans in the galley bilge, which will make some food prep easier – we won`t have to transport them half the length of the boat in heavy seas.
Backtracking to Hiroshima: visiting the A-bomb dome and Peace Park was a moving experience. I felt much the same there that I did at a concentration camp in Germany: horror at the destruction that humanity is capable of at the hands of a few people, but here there was hope. Hiroshima is at the centre of an international campaign to rid the world of nukes. Everytime a country tests a nuclear weapon, they send a telegram of protest, even today. It was quite impressive. Hiroshima was a pretty city with the nicest onsen we`ve visited yet (I`ve been to three now). I took the ferry out to Miyajima one day, an island in the bay near Hiroshima which is covered with shrines and temples. It has the large Torii (Shinto Shrine Gate) that seemingly floats in the water when the tide is up – it is apparently the third most photographed thing in Japan, so you`ve probably seen it before. When I get my photos up, you will see it, from every angle!
Osaka is fairly boring as far as culture goes. Its main purpose seems to be shopping, something it does with style. That and Universal Studios. It does have a sweet castle which Sarah L and I visited yesterday. The cherry blossoms are in full force right now and everyone (and their micro dog, all of which were dressed up in shirts and pants or skirts and bows, some with shoes… its slightly creepy the amount of clothes they put on dogs here) in town was there I think.
Today is more grocery shopping for the stuff we couldn`t get from the wholesaler and then, I hope we will be done. Leg end dinner/desert night is tomorrow and we have yet to plan that too…