Saturday, 16 March 2019

Fear, Hate & Travel

In the wake of the tragic events in Christchurch New Zealand, where islamaphobia and white supremacy once again came crashing down in violence and bloodshed, I’ve been reflecting a bit on the world that we live in, and the legacy we might be leaving to our children.

I was once of the opinion that the world had gotten better over time, that we had evolved from the tribalism of our early homo sapiens days, we had moved past the ignorance that drove the bloodshed of the crusades, the african slave trade,the second world war and so many other spasms of human violence that to document them alone would take up this entire space.

Now I’m not so sure. 

I’m beginning to think that all we’ve done is cover up the ignorance in a thin veneer of civility brought about by the interdependence of finances and greed, and that all it took to pierce that veil was permission; permission provided by ignorance and isolation, and the normalization of hate in popular media, social media and politics.

While it is tempting to throw my hands in the air, lament this sad state of affairs and declare it beyond my ability to fix, I cannot.  I cannot because I don’t want this to be the reality I live in, and what’s more, I don’t want it to be the reality that my children inherit.

I believe that the solution to the blind hate of “others” lies in education,not in the reading of books or recital of lectures, but in an immersive understanding of how those “others” live, experience life, love,and have hopes for their children.  I believe that if you have shared a meal, laughter, or tears, have stared in wonder at nature alongside someone then you cannot help but recognize that we are all much more the same than different in this world.

So, instead of just shedding tears and offering thoughts and prayers we do those things, and we also continue to educate ourselves and our children.  In our travels we have visited more than 30 countries, including many where people live very very different lives than Canadians and yet they have the same hopes of prosperity, and peace.  We saw first hand that there is very little to be afraid of in spite of being told to “be careful” in countries like Albania, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, St. Vincent, Dominica, Cuba, Guatemala & Honduras. 

"...we are all much more the same than different in this world."

The world will move on from the tragedies of today and those of tomorrow that is nearly certain, but I believe that the way to truly make progress and eliminate hate and fear is to expose yourself to the things you don’t know about.  Embrace the new immigrants in your community, visit a church/mosque/temple that is not your own, participate in cultural events and if you can, travel.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Maple moves to the Pacific

Iris and Ella wrote separate accounts of Maple’s journey through the Panama Canal, a key first step in sailing across the Pacific.  I took those accounts and combined them below for this post about the Canal.

Fabulous friends helping us with line handling.
Jeff (in yellow) from Nawii who we first met in Turkey in December 2015, and crewed for us across the Atlantic.
And the Bethke family from Ad Astra, who we first met in Bonaire
and recently spent the hurricane season with in the Rio Dulce.

Recently our family went on a journey through the Panama Canal on our boat Maple. The Panama Canal is located in Panama. Panama is a country that is located in Central America, between Costa Rica and Colombia. The small country of Panama, located at the bottom of North America is an awesome place.

Approaching the first lock, our lock mates are a cargo ship and a US Coast Guard boat.
Gates closing on the Atlantic!

Our last glimpse of the Atlantic from 10 meters above sea level.

Before the Panama Canal was built, if you wanted to go to the Galapagos you had to go the long way around Cape Horn. The only problem was that weather at Cape Horn is wild and ever changing. So it was a risky way to go. Then, in 1881, a French man named Ferdinand de Lesseps had the idea to build a Canal so that there was a more sure way of getting cargo from the Atlantic to the Pacific. If there was a Canal then all of the boats carrying precious cargo could go to their destination knowing that it would be safe.

Our fab line handlers keeping Maple safely off the wall.

For the construction of the Canal Mr. Lesseps wanted to build the Canal in the narrowest part of Panama. Unfortunately, there was a mountain in the way. When Mr. Lesseps pictured the canal he pictured it without locks. This was because the first canal that he built was in Egypt. This canal is called the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal is a canal that runs through Egypt connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. If Mr. Lesseps wanted a canal without locks that meant he had to dig a path through a mountain. So he set to work using Panamanians and Eastern Caribbeans as his diggers. There was just one problem, digging through a mountain with shovels is bound to result in mud slides. These mud slides killed thousands. There was also another problem. An unknown disease was killing tons of workers, so Mr. Lesseps had to pay for even more. This unknown disease turned the whites of your eyes yellow and caused you to vomit up black sludge. This continued until you died. What terrible disease could this be and what caused it. This disease was Yellow fever, and the thing that caused it were mosquitoes. Such a small creature that no one guessed it. So no one had a cure. Eventually Mr. Lesseps ran out of money, and he died a ruined man.

It was dark as we exited the last lock on Day 1 and made our way to a ship mooring to tie up to for the night.

Ten years later the United States decided to continue working on the canal where Mr. Lesseps left off. The Americans had a different idea though. They were going to use locks in the canal. The Americans knew that it was impossible to build a canal through a mountain range at sea level. Also, instead of using men to dig the canal, they were going to use dynamite. If they used dynamite then there was a less likely chance that people would be buried by mudslides. Unfortunately there was still yellow fever. So people still died. Only this time there was a doctor there to help. This doctor was the one who figured out that it was mosquitoes causing the illness. At the time he didn’t have a cure, but he knew that if he could stop mosquitoes from biting a victim then the mosquitoes couldn’t spread the illness. Finally, after ten years of work (plus the thirteen years that the French did), the Panama Canal was finished.

It is a nearly 30 mile motor through Gatun Lake on Day 2 to reach the last three locks.
A lot of lounging for the crew!!

Yes...lots of spare time...

The way that the Panama Canal works is, you go into one of the locks and the gate closes behind you. Then the lock gets filled until it is as high as the lock above it. The gate in front of you opens and you go into the lock in front. You do this two more times, then leave the locks and go into the lake that was formed when the river flooded. The next day you go into the locks and the gate closes. Then the lock empties until it is the same level as the one below it. The gate in front of you opens and you go into the next lock. You do this two more times, then you are in the Pacific Ocean. Once you know how they work it is very simple.

Our rafting buddies for Day 2.  Darryl got a break from steering through the locks on Day 2 as this boat had the bigger engine and had to do all the steering for us.
Day 2 lock mates was a tourist boat and a Clipper cruise ship.

Can you see the outrageous amount of people standing on the balconies just to watch the boats going through the canal?!?!  If only I could get my hands on some of their pictures of us.

Many thanks to Leah for sending us a picture from the webcam!!

We took Maple through the canal. There are four people, two on either side of the boat to handle lines. People on the canal wall throw these things called monkey fists to the boat. Monkey fists are small balls of iron rapped in rope. Then you tie up and water starts to fill up from the bottom, and the boat slowly goes up. It took us two days to get through the canal. It was awesome to go through the canal and to see how it works. It was a one time experience and I think I would definitely do it again if I had the chance to.

What a monkey fist looks like.  Watch will hurt if you get hit by one.

Last we come Pacific!!

And there she is...we are entering the Pacific Ocean!!

And this video demonstrates why we are not vloggers!

We had the best advisor, Hector, who safely guided us through the canal on both days.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

The Maple Crew Visit Peru (Part 4)

The Maple crew is currently in Peru, embarking on some land travel while Maple sits out the hurricane season in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  Here are some more thoughts from Iris (8 year old, Grade 3) about her trip to Peru.

Machu Picchu

Q:  In your last post you wrote about what you’d seen in the Colca Canyon and saw Condors.  Your sister shared some details about Lake Titicaca.  What have you been doing since then?

A: We  have been to the Rainbow mountain and Machu Picchu.

Q:  What was the most memorable part of your visit to Machu Picchu?

A: When we went to Machu Picchu, it was very cloudy.  We could not see the city of the mountains.  After a little while, the clouds cleared away and we were looking at the sacred city.


Q:  Why does Machu Picchu exist?  Can you tell us a bit more about its history and discovery?

A: It was a vacation home for the Emperor  of the Incans.  The site was chosen because it had stone for building and water for drinking.   It was built 1450 and the Incans stayed there for 80 years and then left when the Spanish began conquering the Incans.  Machu Picchu was rediscovered by an American professor named Hiram Bingham who was searching for a lost city of the Incans.  He may have been searching for hidden treasure.  A Peruvian named Agustin Lizarranga found the site before Mr. Bingham in 1902 but he did not make it famous.  When it was discovered, the buildings had no roofs, the walls were falling down, and were covered by the jungle.

Machu Picchu - 1912 - Wikimedia Commons

Machu Picchu - 2018

Q:  You mentioned a rainbow mountain, can you tell me more about that?

A: The rainbow mountains were far away from Cusco.  We had to get up at 4 in the morning to go there.  We took a van part of the way to the mountain and then had to hike for about an hour to the mountain.  We did not go all the way to the top of the mountain because it was steep and the altitude was very high.  The mountaintop is more than 5000 meters above sealevel.  It snowed while we were hiking.  My dad went to the top and took pictures.  The mountain’s real name is Vinicunca, but it is called the rainbow because it has lots of different coloured rocks and sand.  The colours come from the minerals in the rock.  Yellow is sulfur, red is iron, and green is chlorine.  After seeing the mountain we walked back to the van.  I accidentally left my sweater where we had lunch, but the tour guide picked it up for us and I got it back after we went to Machu Picchu. 

Vinicunca - The Rainbow Mountain

Its cold above 4500 meters!

Q:  What are your plans for the next part of your trip?

A:  Right now we are in Lima, tomorrow we fly home, I am really excited to be back at Maple.  I miss Maple, but we have to get up at 3 in the morning for our plane.  I am grumpy when I wake up early so tomorrow I will probably be grumpy and I will probably get yelled at.  But at least we’ll be heading home.


Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Maple Crew Visits Peru (Part 3)

The Maple crew is currently in Peru, embarking on some land travel while Maple sits out the hurricane season in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  Here are some more thoughts from Ella (11 year old, Grade 7) about her trip to Peru.

Uros Islands, Lake Titicaca, Peru

Q:  In your last post you wrote about what you’d seen in Arequipa.  Your sister shared some details about the Colca Canyon, hiking and seeing Andean Condors.  What have you been doing since then?

A: Since then my family and I went to Puno to see Lake Titicaca. The word Titicaca means “stone puma”. Lake Titicaca is at an altitude of 3800 meters. While at Lake Titicaca we went on a cultural exchange which included a trip to the Uros Islands which are floating islands made of reeds, an overnight stay with a local family on Amantani Island, and a brief stop at Taquile Island.

Q:  What was the most memorable part of your visit to Lake Titicaca?

A: The most memorable part of Lake Titicaca was seeing the floating reed islands. The reed islands have to be anchored or else they might float into the Bolivian part of Lake Titicaca.

Reed Island supporting 3 families, Lake Titicaca, Peru


Q:  Why do the reed islands exist?  Can you tell us a bit more about how the islands are made and what life is like on the islands?

A: The reed islands exist because the Uros people were trying to escape war between tribes in pre-Incan Peru. The islands are made by stacking layers reeds on top of floating root blocks. In the beginning there are five layers of reeds but as time goes on the reeds rot and more layers need to be added to keep the island from sinking. The reed islands can last up to 45 years if they are well cared for. A big island can house up to 10 family’s while a small island can only house 2. The houses on the reed islands are entirely made of reeds. On the island they have to cook out in the open, they use the reeds as their fire source. The clothes on the reed island are very similar to the clothes on Amantani Island. For a bathroom they build separate islands to use as bathrooms. When you go to the bathroom the reeds will soak up your waste.

Q:  You stayed overnight with a family on Amantani Island, that must have been an interesting experience.  Can you tell me a bit about what that was like?

A: Staying over night in some ones house was an interesting experience. We got a bedroom to ourselves but the bathroom was outside and you had to dump a bucket of water into the toilet to flush it. The kitchen was small and did not have a sink or many counters.  The meals at the house were very tasty and filling.



Ella grinding quinoa to make flour.

Q:  Can you tell me a bit more about the culture of people on Amantani Island?

A:  On Amantani Island the people all wear very beautiful outfits. The men wear very colourful ponchos. The women all wear plain green skirts and a very colourful  blouse with an elaborate design on it. They also wear a thick belt that overlaps the blouse and the skirt. then they wear a shawl over top of all their other clothes. On Amantani Island they found a way to preserve potatoes for 60 years. The way that they preserve the potatoes is they put them on top of a mountain in the winter. then when the potatoes are frozen they stomp on them until all of the water has been squeezed out of them the potatoes. To eat the dehydrated potatoes all you have to do is rehydrate them. Another interesting fact about Amantani Island is that the husband in the family makes all the clothes for the girls and the wife makes all the clothes for the boys.

Dressed in traditional clothing for welcome party.
Ella dancing with our host family.


Thursday, 20 September 2018

The Maple Crew Visits Peru (Part 2)

The Maple crew is still in Peru, enjoying some land travel while Maple sits out the hurricane season in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  Next up to share some thoughts on Peru is Iris (8 years old, Grade 3).

Suri Alpaca

Q:  What kinds of things have you done in the last few days?
A: We went hiking in the Colca Canyon it was 10.5 km downhill then we took the bus back the next day. The Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world.  It is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. We also went to an Alpaca museum. We got to feed the alpacas and llamas. We also got to pet the alpacas. Yesterday we went to see some condors.  We saw some condors but not many. The Andean condor is the largest bird in the world.

On the trail...
About 1/3 of the way.  That's our trail stretching out around the mountain.

Andean Condor in flight.

Q:  What was the most interesting to you?  Why was it the most interesting?
A: The Alpaca museum because I love alpacas and llamas, they are cute.  Do you know there are four different types of Llamas: vicuna, guanaco, suri alpaca and huacaya  alpaca. I like the suri because it has long hair.

Llamas, Alpacas & kids - oh my!

Baby Llama!

Q:  What did you not enjoy and why?
A: The hike because it was long and tiring.  My feet and legs hurt A LOT at the end.  The hot springs at the hostel at the end of the hike felt great.

Hot springs apres hiking.

Q:  What are you most looking forward to next and why?
A: Lake Titicaca with the floating reed islands because it will be cool to see.

The Maple Crew visits Peru

The Maple crew is currently in Peru, embarking on some land travel while Maple sits out the hurricane season in the Rio Dulce Guatemala.  After a long hiatus from posting, we’re kicking thigs off with some thoughts from Ella (11 year old, Grade 7) about Peru.


Q:  Where are you right now?
A: Right now I am in Arequipa, Peru.  Peru is in South America.d

Q:  What was your first impression of Peru?
A; When we first arrived in Peru it didn’t feel very different from any other country that we’d been in. I think that because we travel to so many different places, nothing seems too weird, every city feels pretty normal.  We had arrived in a city so it looked and smelled like a city.

Q:  What kinds of things have you seen so far in Peru?
A: So far we have seen a catacomb that was underneath a church in Lima, we didn’t have an English tour guide so we didn’t learn all the details. We also went on a small 6 seater plane and got to look a the Nazca lines. The Nazca lines are pictures in the sand that were made by the Nazca people between 500 B.C and 500 C.E. To make the Nazca lines the Nazca people would scrape the red sand and rock off of the surface to expose the gray rocks and clay underneath. The Nazca lines can only be seen from the sky so you couldn’t take a car to see them. Today we went to a museum about the Incan people and we learned about the sacrifices and how they only sacrificed children because they were innocent and pure.

About to go flying
On the Flight Line

The Monkey

The Spider

The Tree

Q:  What was the most interesting to you?  Why was it the most interesting?
A: The most interesting thing that we have done so far was going to the Incan museum because I learned that to the Incans being sacrificed was an honor since they believed that you would be living with the gods. I also learned that to sacrifice them they would climb to the top of their sacred mountain and give the children and alcoholic drink that would make them sleepy, then the would club them on the head so that the skull would break and that is what killed them.  The first child that they found was a 12-14 years old. They decided to name her Juanita after the archeologist that found her. We got to see her skeleton and it wasn’t what I expected.  She was as big as a 5 year old even though she was fourteen. Two other children were found on the same mountain and all of them had gifts around them.

The Library
Library - Monastery of St. Francis of Assisi

The Catacombs
Catacombs - Monastery of St. Francis of Assisi

Q:  What do you have planned for the rest of your trip?
A: For the rest of our trip we plan on going to Machu Picchu to see the ruins at the top. We are also going to see Lake Titicaca which has floating reed islands on it.

Q:  What are you most looking forward to and why?
A: I am really looking forward to going to Machu Picchu because there are some ruins of a city at the top which were only discovered in 1911.

So far the crew from Maple are holding up well, and enjoying the sights, smells, sounds and history of our first South American stop.