A Travellerspoint blog

South Africa


Bill ventures solo to Durban's delights

sunny 81 °F


Hope was under the weather this morning, so Bill went on a tour of Durban on his own, one highlight being a visit to the stalls of the Victoria Street Market. Originally built in 1910 as the Indian Market, this arcade is now filled with stalls selling all manner of goods – fragrant spices, Indian saris, African clothing and crafts, and the traditional “healing treatments. “ These would be snake and toad body parts. Bargaining here is the modus operandi.

Not being as comfortable or adept at bargaining as Hope, Bill set out on his shopping expedition with considerable misgiving. However he was determined to find some bits of costume that could be worn a week hence for the ship’s upcoming African night party, as well as some rhythm instruments for an upcoming African Worship Service in Zanzibar.1 He is proud to say that in only 45 minutes, he was able to obtain everything he had in mind plus a beautiful Zulu wire basket. And he thinks Hope would be pleased with his growing bargaining experience. 2

Bucked up, Bill visited a hillside to overlook the stunning city of Durban (South Africa's 3rd largest). Thanks to good friend Bob Elliott who went to the edge of the overlook to snap the pix of the city, you can see the space ship/soccer stadium and urban center. The other Durban highlight that Bill visited was the stunning Botanic Garden that he and Hope visited in 2019 on their last World Cruise. He was interested to see how the gardens fared during an extensive shutdown due to COVID. He was pleased to see that this Durban showplace was as spectacular as ever in spite of some signs of needed maintenance. And he was dismayed at the (probably necessary) razor wire atop the walls. Sometimes sharing what we have and love is more daunting than it should be.

1 and to be brought home for use at the next Duncaster rhythm instrument festival.
2 Hope, the dutiful typist and blog poster, reports that she is VERY proud, especially since Bill left with American $$ and no bank card, so he couldn’t use an ATM (and all ATM’s had a 1+ hour wait anyway - apparently there aren’t enough of them). Hope thinks the shopkeepers saw what a nice guy Bill is and took (actually very little of) his dollars and sent him on his way smiling.

Posted by HopeEakins 15:43 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Optimism about South Africa

Holding the land together

sunny 82 °F


Our friend, Harriet Odlum, asked if we were more optimistic about South Africa now than when we last visited it. Too quickly I recognized my basic pessimism about this splendid country. It is gorgeous, in a fabulous location with 2000 miles of coast. Rich natural resources abound. South Africa exports diamonds, gold, chrome, and iron ore, and we see hopper cars full of manganese ore riding by on railroad tracks. There is a strong eco-awareness and responsibility here: the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town has a large WaterShed, a splendid space with 150 boutique shops. One sells upscale purses and bags, many made of recycled tires. One sells vests and parkas with linings made from plastic ocean waste. We go to beautiful beaches and fine vineyards; we pass well-established universities and ..... still the place is riddled with crime and corruption, poverty and racism. We ask why and there are no clear answers. We listen to fine lectures by experts in SA's geopolitics; they are very good at delineating the questions and telling the country's history, but they have no answer to "Why?"

There are two sides to EVERY story here. We docked next to the Christiaan Barnard Hospital in Cape Town - remember the first human heart transplant in 1967? Medical care and research is excellent, but .... there is more AIDS here than in any other country and the disease affects more blacks (14%) than whites (0.4%). So there are many orphans. There was no AIDS treatment for years because President Mbecki (1996-2008) insisted that the disease was caused by malnutrition and poverty, not HIV. So he gave a boatload of $$ to his cronies to fix that problem.

On the other hand look at what has happened here: a nation of blacks (80%), whites (9%), coloreds (9%), and "others" functions well. At least some swords have been turned into plowshares. Somehow through the grace of God, Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years in prison and signed an agreement with President FW deKlerk (the last white President) to end apartheid (Miracle!). Representatives of many peoples worked to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Bishop Desmond Tutu, and designed to name and carefully open the wounds here and heal them. No Nuremberg trials adjudicating wrong doing, just confession of the truth with amnesty. What an amazing idea!! It recalls the nine words that are the basis of a good marriage: I did wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me.

So why the agave photo above? We see this plant all over the place, usually smaller than this, usually more bruised, always growing in soil that looks like it last saw a nutrient 20 years ago. Apparently this agave can tolerate poor soil - and seems to balk at OVER watering. It likes full sun, but can also grow in shade. It sends out a flower every ten years or so. But it holds the land together. It holds the land together. And guess what, this agave has strong antimicrobial and antioxidant qualities and is a natural snail control and tape-worm medication. The agave is my new symbol of this land.

So I have changed my mind about South Africa's future. I am a patient optimist.
Hope (both nominative and imperative)

Posted by HopeEakins 12:35 Archived in South Africa Comments (3)

GQEBERHA South Africa

Elephants and more settlements

sunny 82 °F


Off to Gqeberha.... That city's name is pronounced click-bear-ha. The click - remember the film The Gods Must be Crazy? - involves making your tongue a suction cup that pulls down from your hard palate. Attempts at the elocution of Gqeberha make most people giggle and then swear. So we ended up calling it by its old name: Port Elizabeth or even South Africa slang: PE. PE was named in 1820 after the wife of the Acting Governor, but she died before she ever got there, so the Governor brought her heart along and buried it in a monument on top of a hill and then committed suicide. Well, 200 years later, the Commission for Renaming of Public Places (something like that) replaced Elizabeth's name with the unspeakable Gqeberha. Many people (mostly those with poor clicking skills) objected, but the Xhosa rejoiced and that settled it.

From PE to Addo Elephant Park, many acres of scrub traversed by dirt paths, along which we drove for hours. South Africa is experiencing a long and significant drought, and elephants drink a lot of water, in addition to cooling off/playing in it. Addo has no rivers, just pipes trickling water into holes bored into the earth. We would make our way to one borehole and find it empty and then go to the next. This has given us a new phrase for our vocabularies: going from one borehole to the next. When we did encounter a huge herd, it was amazing. Elephants huge and small rolled around in the water, came right up to out 4x4, and tussled with each other (these were adolescent males, we were told).

Finally, on our return to a lovely city, we began to see townships again. 300,000 live in the one pictured. South Africa is making a brave attempt to find beauty and success and joy in diversity, but it is sometimes very hard going.

Posted by HopeEakins 16:36 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

ECUMENICAL WORSHIP aboard the Silver Whisper

February 27, 2022 at 5:30 pm

sunny 81 °F

HYMN: Love divine, all loves excelling

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray. Holy and Mighty God, who revealed your Son’s glory upon the holy mountain grant that as we walk our earthly paths we may see your light around us and shine with your Love through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Psalm 27: 1, 3-13

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?
the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?

Though an army should encamp against me,
yet my heart shall not be afraid;

And though war should rise up against me,
yet will I put my trust in him.

One thing have I asked of the LORD; one thing I seek;
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life;

To behold the fair beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble he shall keep me safe in his shelter;
he shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling and set me high upon a rock.

Even now he lifts up my head
above my enemies round about me.

Therefore I will offer in his dwelling an oblation with sounds of great gladness;
I will sing and make music to the LORD.

Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call;
have mercy on me and answer me.

You speak in my heart and say, "Seek my face."
Your face, LORD, will I seek.

Hide not your face from me,
nor turn away your servant in displeasure.

You have been my helper; cast me not away;
do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.

A Reading from the Gospel of Mark

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. (9:2-8)

The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

A Reflection The Reverend Hope H. Eakins

So Jesus takes three of his disciples up a high mountain, where he shone with a dazzling light so bright they could have been in heaven. Peter’s reaction was exactly what ours would likely be: “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” Let’s build some houses and stay here together away from the world. Yet what would have happened had Jesus replied, “You are right, Peter. Let’s stay here and see who comes to visit us?”

What would have happened is that Lazarus would never have been raised from death, nor the lepers cleansed, nor the children blessed. The loaves and fishes would not have fed 5000, and the cross, the dying, the empty tomb, the rising - none of it would have happened.

Peter chose detachment from the world; Jesus chose involvement and love. Descending the mountain, he set his face toward his death, because he knew that he had more to do than to establish a mountain top retreat. He knew that Mt. Tabor was no place to pitch his tent since he had been sent to redeem the world down here in the dirt and the toil and the pain because this is precisely what needs redemption.

Lent begins in three days on Ash Wednesday. Lent is a hard sell on a cruise ship, but I am going to try. Lent is a dark season when we come face to face with life in the valley, with thorns and whipping and death, with sin and decay and betrayal. But this is what Christian life is all about - facing into the darkness and finding light. Christians say that we’re an Easter people, but that does not mean that we spend our time rolling eggs on the lawn. Being an Easter people means that even though we know sickness and suffering, we have seen signs of transfiguration and glimpses of resurrection. It means that since we know the end of Jesus’ story, we have hope, knowing that life and love do triumph over death and darkness.

So why do we need Lent? Why can’t we stay on the mountain and go straight to Easter? Because then we would forget that Christ died for us because we need dying for, because we are worth dying for.

A friend of mine who has just turned 100 remembers Lent in her youth. She remembers that grown men gave up smoking, remembers the mite boxes in which she put her pennies instead of buying horehound drops and peppermints. The funds that would have been spent were given to the Missionary Society, and there were no poker evenings for men nor bridge afternoons for ladies.

But I think there is something questionable about giving things up for Lent. If sweets or card playing or smoking are causing us trouble, we should give them up forever, not just for forty days. Some spiritual leaders urge us to take something on for Lent rather than to give something up. We are exhorted to read Scripture, visit the sick, and go to church. But there is something unsettling about this too. Prayer, Bible study, good deeds, exercising - these are not disciplines but good things we should be doing anyway.

I think the real Lenten exercise is in the discipline itself, not in giving up something bad for us or taking on something that is good for us, but choosing a discipline for no reason other than to strengthen us for Christ’s sake. Athletes run to build up their muscles; musicians practice to build up their skills; Christians pray to build up their souls and give up things to learn that God is more important than dessert.

I don’t think it matters what we do for Lent, as long as we do something. You could promise to read the little newspaper or listen to the news each day and pray for God’s blessing someplace in this broken world. You could send a regular email to someone who is lonely or shut-in. Even putting a dime a day in some kind of mite box could be a powerful sign of self-offering if you make a serious ritual of it. The four dollars won’t make a dent in the world’s poverty, but it could make a dent in your soul. Taking a moment for silent prayer each day might not stop war in Ukraine, but it might let us hear God’s call to work for peace. Letting the other person always go first may not change our ship’s community, but it would challenge our tendencies toward self-importance.

Lent is upon us. It is time to decide how you will keep it. I hope you will find some Lenten practice of devotion and that you will share your intent with somebody else because it is a lot harder to cheat if you’ve gone on public record. I also hope you will begin Lent on Ash Wednesday and come here to be marked with ashes as a sinner in need of redemption, as a pilgrim seeking God, as part of a community that walks together on the way to the cross hearing the old old story of Christ’s love for us so that, heartened and supported by each other, our Alleluias may resound all the louder when Easter dawns.

The Prayers

O God, you sent your Son Jesus to bring light to our world: Take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth.
The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season.

Give wisdom and perseverance to our political leaders. Keep their vision high and their sympathies broad that their work may be for the common good. Protect those who serve in armed forces and all who face war and violence.
The way of the Lord is righteous and loving.

Bless the people of Ukraine. Bestow wisdom, discernment and compassion on those with power over war or peace. Hold and protect all your children, at risk and in fear.
Keep us safe in the day of trouble.

Be present with the staff and crew of the Silver Whisper who are far from their families.
Do not forsake us, O God of our salvation.

Strengthen all who suffer in body, mind, and spirit: those who have no home to call their own, the bullied and abused, the mentally ill, those in need of healing and those who mourn
The Lord upholds those who fall and lifts up those who are bowed down.

Watch over those whom we love; be with our families and friends; bless all who celebrate birthdays and wedding anniversaries and all who pledge love and faithfulness to each other in your Name.
All your works praise you, O Lord, and your faithful servants bless you.

Eternal light grant unto those who have died, that they may now rest in peace:.
The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great kindness.

Summing up all our petitions and all our thanksgivings, we pray in the words Jesus taught us

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy Kingdom come;
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory
forever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit, and may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

HYMN: Amazing Grace

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins, The Reverend William J. Eakins
Music: Alex Manev
Usher: Andrea Ryan

Expected times of next services:
Ash Wednesday, March 2 at 5:30 pm
Sunday, March 6 at 5:30 pm

How to Observe Lent on a Cruise Ship

G.K. Chesterton wrote “A white post will only continue to be a white post if it is painted white every year; otherwise it will become a black post.” Our lives are like that. We need a time of annual painting, a time of discipline to keep our souls from getting tarnished.

It doesn’t matter what we do for Lent, as long as we do something. Here are some ideas:

You could give up
Dessert (maybe one day a week?) - to remind you God is more important than dessert.
Gossiping - to challenge your self-importance and expand your heart in love.
Complaining – to open your eyes to the goodness and blessings all around you.

You could take on

Reading the news and praying for God’s blessing someplace in this broken world.
Walking around the deck and saying the Lord’s Prayer silently.
Doing one act of kindness each day.
Contributing money to a cause that touches your heart
Forgiving someone who has hurt you, praying for them and wishing them well.
Reading a Psalm each day (you can find the Psalter at bcponline.org and

Between Ash Wednesday (March 2) and Easter (April 17), there are 46 days, 6 of them Sundays. The forty days are a remembrance of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness and the six Sundays are places to rest in the wilderness, days of celebrating that we DO live on the other side of Easter. Have you given up sweets? Then eat a piece of chocolate cake every Sunday because if chocolate cake is a bad thing, you should give it up permanently, and if it isn’t a bad thing, you should enjoy it so that you know what you are giving up.

Posted by HopeEakins 15:39 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Cape Town, South Africa THREE

Opera in the Quarry

sunny 75 °F


Opera in the Quarry our invitation read, A Celebration of Operatic Treasures and South African Treasures. It was as magnificent as we had hoped. As we left the ship, an orchestra of young people filled the hall with the sound of their violins (Margaret Adams, dear granddaughter, you would have fit in well!). We made our way to The Hillcrest Winery Estate in Durbanville; beyond the vineyards is a magnificent quarry, mined from 1939-1951 to build the breakwater in Cape Town harbor.

Elephants met us as we came into the quarry. As we came closer, we saw that they were amazing life size creations, including a baby, who ambled in the field. Then came the drums and song of the South African Youth Choir. Dinner was in a huge clear shed strung with lanterns, and more elephants abounded – as table decorations and lighted sculptures. We strolled with champagne and then were served a five course dinner, paired with South African wines. And wait, there’s more .... the production: from Traviata to music from The Mission, from Lakmé to a Xhosa song. One of the sopranos was Amira Willghagen, an 18 year old whom we heard in a concert three years ago.

South Africa, the rainbow nation, is indeed a land of contrasts and great potential.

Posted by HopeEakins 11:31 Archived in South Africa Comments (3)

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