Privilege

Privilege and race have been on my mind. Then this buzzfeed quiz came across my Twitter feed this morning.

Privilege.

I scored 62 out of 100. Not high for a quiz – though high enough to be called “quite privileged.” Buzzfeed is by no way scientific and, from what I have seen on Twitter, there has been quite a wide variety of scores received. Some scores seem to make sense to the recipients, but some do not. Either way, it has opened up a conversation about what privilege means.

Later on this month I will be helping to lead a group of high school students on a “Global Citizen Youth Leadership” program in El Salvador. Part of the pre-trip conversations have included this topic of privilege. What is white privilege and what do we do with it? Interestingly, not all of us participating are white and I am sure this will add a lot of good insight to the conversation when we finally meet face-to-face.

When I think of privilege and the privilege my whiteness gives me, one of the most vivid examples I can think of was on Offshore when we were in Madang, Papua New Guinea. I and the other cook were in charge of provisioning the ship and we enjoyed our trips to the market to get fresh fruits and vegetables. Across the Pacific, these trips were usually filled with laughter as we all struggled between broken English and limited Pidgin to make it understood that these two girls wanted to buy that entire pile of carrots and that whole bucket of potatoes, plus all the watermelon we could carry. The laughter continued as we would struggle to load them onto our shoulders and carry the produce back to the boat.

The market was full of friendly laughter. It was different at the grocery store.

We shopped at the grocery store with some regularity over the week we were in port. It was a good place to stock up on canned goods, meats, and everything else generally not available at the open-air market. PNG is a country not particularly known for being safe and so we were not surprised to see armed guards at the entrances and exits of the store. I was a little uncomfortable when everyone’s bags were searched upon leaving the store – everyone’s except ours.

But nothing was as uncomfortable as the day we arrived to shop and there was a queue of about 30 people waiting to get into the store. We joined the back of the line, happy to wait our turn and attempt to converse with the people around us in line. The armed guards had other ideas.

They saw us waiting in line and came and told us to come with them. It wasn’t safe for us to wait in line, they said: two white girls in a line of New Guineans. It wasn’t safe. What felt not safe were the hisses that followed us as we became escorted queue-jumpers, passing all 30 of the people ahead us in line and into the store to do our shopping. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up to hear those hisses and I saw exactly what privilege – and dislike – my whiteness could afford me.

I think this is why I always strive to respect local customs and attire as best as I can when I travel. I just want to blend in. I count it a compliment to be treated like a local and always try to be as respectful as I can.

Not all of PNG was like this. In the remote Tsoi Islands where we worked together with local villagers to build a dugout canoe, a profound moment came when our Captain was talking with the chief boat builder after a long day of work. The boat builder held his dark arm up beside our Captain’s very white arm, looked into his eyes, and said, “It doesn’t matter, does it? We are brothers.”

White privilege. I know I have it. How do we live with it?

 

Friday Photo

Oh hey! It is Friday!

Who has time to take photos when you work all night and sleep all day? I’ve worked one evening (shelter), one day (optometry), and two overnights (shelter) so far this week… and am about to head off to overnight number three (though at a different shelter than the other shifts this week). This hasn’t left me much time for wandering around town or for taking pictures this week. Instead, today we’re flashing back to 2007 because of the opera that I went to last night before work: The Flying Dutchman. While I’m sure that the tropical seas of the Pacific near Hawaii are a slightly different hue than the North Atlantic of Wagner’s opera, this production opened with some footage of rolling swells and breaking seas that brought me right back to many times on Offshore.

Friday Photo

This has been a photo-less week. I’m not sure what I have been up to.

Instead, I have gone back in history: July 29, 2007, four days after crossing the equator, land was sighted for the first time since leaving Honolulu about two weeks earlier. We made landfall, anchoring at Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia. These Islands renewed my love of the colour green. This is Tahuata, Hiva Oa’s little sister, where we went ashore to the village of Hapatoni and got invited to a wedding.

Friday Photo


I haven’t taken too many photos this week, aside from ones with the phone. I did, however, download a new app for my phone that changes existing photos. Called “Tinyplanet” it takes a photo and wraps it around in a circle to make a, you guessed it, planet. I took a photo of the Pacific Grace that I took at sunset on Moorea, French Polynesia, and tinyplanet-ized it. The result is kind of fun!

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.

May Some Light Enfold

This is taken from (and adapted with my own photos) Episcopal Cafe Art Blog.

I feel myself in need
Of the inspiring strains of ancient lore,
My heart to lift, my empty mind to feed,
And all the world explore.

I know that I am old
And never can recover what is past,
But for the future may some light unfold
And soar from ages blast.

I feel resolved to try,
My wish to prove, my calling to pursue,
Or mount up from the earth into the sky,
To show what Heaven can do.


Words by George Moses Horton (in “George Moses Horton, Myself”)

Photos by myself: Trial Island and Mt Baker; Solitary Paddler, Munda, New Georgia; The Boathouse, Thetis Island; On Top of the World: Tavish on Moorea, French Polynesia.

Hove to

To continue to appease the northern commenter… I offer this previously unpublished piece of writing, from this day in history…

June 20, 2007. 139nm

I never get tired of the sunsets out here. We’ve passed below 10N and so the wind is somewhat lacking, meaning the sea can be somewhat glass-like.

Yesterday and today we hove-to for a swim stop. Yesterday, I ended up with far too much saltwater in my body so today I took the snorkel gear out. How many people can say they’ve gone snorkeling in 15,000ft of water? It is so incredibly blue and surprisingly clear. All you can see are the people around you and tiny jellyfish ranging from the size of a dime to about 15cm in diameter. The small ones would sting a bit, but you don’t really feel it.

I never last long out there because I pretty much have no stamina. When I got out of the water, I went up and sat on the bowsprit. It was a unique perspective to look back at the swimmers and the boat against the endless horizon. Just us and the ocean.

I also did my first sights today with the sextant. It is neat to be learning such an old craft, albeit with some modern equipment. I was only 1.6nm off on my first sight which is pretty good. I haven’t calculated how I did on my second sight. The process reminded me of that part in Red Rackham’s Treasure where Thomson and Thompson try to correct Captain Haddock on his navigational calculations to which he replies: “Gentlemen, please remove your hats.” “Why?” “Because according to your calculations, we are now standing inside of Westminster Abbey.” It makes me laugh just thinking of it…

We caught another dorado today. I guess it is in the freezer which means I’ll be expected to do something with it tomorrow. Meals seem to be less exciting on this leg. For one thing, we didn’t buy as much in Hawaii as we did leaving Victoria. I think the allergies are more restrictive on this leg as well.

Well, it has cooled down and I am cooking tomorrow so… ‘night.