Sunday, March 16, 2008
Assorted views from the deck of my other life, the ship
Work. No. Good.
I believe that will suffice.
As promised, more photos. Lets see....how about one of a Crossing the Line Ceremony? When a sailor crosses the equator for the first time, he, or she advance from a Pollywog to a Shellback (son of Neptune). The ceremony opens as the Pollywogs are subpoenaed, one by one, to appear before Neptune, his assistants Davy Jones and Amphriti. So begins a centuries old tradition of torture and humiliation in a myriad of wonderfully creative and entertaining forms. Crawling across a non-skid deck on your knees, immersed in vile fluids, drinking raw eggs, beaten with a length of fire hose, pelted with rotten fruit, dressed in drag and finally forced to kiss the Royal Baby's belly, coated in axle grease. Good fun for all and much-needed break from the extreme pressure this environment and career choice impose upon us.
Another seafaring tradition is that of firing of expired, or near expired emergency flares off on New Years Eve. The gun is passed around among the less-experienced crew and they take turns firing flares for a sort of New Years Eve fireworks display at 15 minutes past midnight, up on the bridge wing. It's a small thing, but for some it's a welcome diversion from thinking about the friends and family we all miss even more during the holidays. I didn't attend this past New Years Eve, instead choosing to spend a few minutes at the stern rail, watching the phosphorescent wake trail off into the darkness, thinking about my family. The holidays were rough for me and a few flares weren't going to help, but the trainees all seemed to enjoy the display.
Finally, a couple of picture from a past adventure in Myanmar (formerly Burma). A shot of just a few of hundreds of the lesser pagodas, or shrines in the Buddhist Shwedagon Pagoda complex, located in the capital city of Yangon (formerly Rangoon-you know those crab thingies??) and one of the massive, central Stupa, completely covered in gold and gems. Construction beginning somewhere between the 6th and 10th centuries, the massive Shwedagon has to be one of the most impressive constructs in the world, in progress for over two millennia. Lovingly crafted from the finest gold, gems, wood and gemstones in the world, by Buddhists from all over the country and region. It is today, still being adorned and added to, as they also refinish and refurbish the older structures adornments at the same time. It is also the single only thing that the current military regime cannot fuck with. I have been told and do not find it hard to believe that the Buddhists would die to a man, to protect this, their most sacred pagoda. Most of the country donate their time, money, gold or jewelry to this temple every year. Indeed, my local guide wanted nothing more than to give up his worldly possessions and spent his remaining days restoring one of the lesser pagodas that has a particular draw for him. I spent one of the most peaceful days of my entire life walking around these temples barefoot, breathing in the incense, listening to the soft chanting, mixed with the sounds of dozens of different song birds. I bought my girls a big bag of jade jewelry and a few hand-carved sandalwood wall hangings, haggled over in one of the cavernous stairwells beneath one of the three terraces, occupying three of the four cardinal points of the compass. Peaceful is the only way to describe such a place and peace is the one thing that eludes us so often while at sea.