Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
At 1:30am as I lay on the cement step outside the bathroom. I thought, “Hmm, why am I on the ground? How did this happen?” Leaving Los Angeles for a summer of sun in Samoa and the South Pacific, I had no idea about the Survivor Stories that would unfold so quickly.
I had eaten the chicken at dinner, apparently a mistake that night.
During the dark hours before dawn I fainted at the edge of the bathroom steps and there I regained consciousness, scraped and bruised on both arms and chin. I guess when I needed to run to the bathroom again and again I should have woken George, especially after falling, but I was so stunned that I ended up face-planted on the ground. Once back in our room I lay on the mat, moaning. George woke up and asked what was wrong. After hearing my tale of woe he offered to help. Because of his concern, and despite the many earlier explosions, I was finally able to rest.
This video shows some of the gorgeous beauty of Virgin Cove, our nighttime arrival and the many steps to the bathroom. All aspects of travel are not beautiful but some of them do make us appreciate better the postcard days!
Video: Drama at Virgin Cove
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February 17, 2012 | 12:51 pm
Posted Richard Bangs
There is a place whose people have been on a never-ending quest to achieve a concord between life’s jagged puzzle pieces. And some believe they have found its secrets.
Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong: three pearls in one exquisite setting. Each distinct, yet bound together by a cultural veneration of harmony. Just as a wick needs a flame, some of us can’t live without exploring our existence, and I inevitably find myself turning to the East and the wisdom of the Ancients in search of the roots of the human desire for harmony.
Harmony implies balance and the ability to integrate different elements into a pleasing unity. It incorporates the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang, opposite forces that come together to form a whole.
Chinese philosophers and religious leaders have long honored harmony as an ideal. Confucius, the great Chinese thinker, spoke of “harmony without uniformity.” He taught that the world is full of differences and contradictions, but that righteous people should try to balance them to achieve a vital equilibrium.
Taoists believe that by following practices that achieve balance in daily life, they gain harmony with the universe. And the Buddha said that for the enlightened one, harmony is his joy, his delight and his love.
Read the rest of this article….
Watch the new PBS special, “Richard Bangs’ Adventures with Purpose: The Pearl River Delta-Quest for Harmony” airing now nationally. Check local listings.
February 13, 2012 | 11:16 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
George and I had wanted to visit there before but it was the first time the dice of price allowed it to happen! Our two weeks in the Cook Islands included kayaking, hammock swinging and two trips to the incredible jewel- toned Aitutaki Lagoon with Teking Tours.
Kit Herring of the Backpacker’s Handbook was recently there for a glorious third time and offered to share his historical knowledge of this spectacular location. Enjoy!
When Captain William Bligh let go the anchor of the Bounty off the west coast of Aitutaki a few days before the famous mutiny, he beheld an island and a culture far different than we can possibly understand today. He did not visit the whole island, but rather only the area loosely termed Arutanga. Always a meticulous diarist, he recorded some interesting facts. Of the natives in Tahiti he had written, “Inclination seems to be the only binding law, marriage in this country for a woman will get her a husband if she pledges…”
He continues about the inhabitants of Aitutaki, “The people are just the same as those of the…Isles… but are more docile and inoffensive.”
The account from his logbook of the discovery reads as follows:
“At daylight however we discovered an island of a moderate height with a round conical hill…A number of small Keys were seen from the mast.”
“They were all around with trees and the large island had a most fruitful appearance. The shore was bordered with flat land, with innumerable Cocoa Nut and other trees. I saw no smoke or any sign of inhabitants.”
He writes that, “(T)hey called this island Whytootackee, ” and that upon his first meeting with the natives, “I was however agreeably surprised by a visit from four men in a single canoe… Two of the men had each a large Mother of Pearl shell hung on their breasts… On being told I was the Erree (chief), the principal person immediately came and joined noses with me and presented me his shell and tyed it around my neck… Notwithstanding they said there were no Hogs, Yarros, of tarrow… they called them by name, and I rather inclined to believe they were imposing upon me… The Chief of the canoe took possession of everything I had given… a knife, some nails, Beads and a looking glass.”
He goes on to say that two locals wished to overnight on his ship. Apparently some of his crew took the idea of immediate friendship in a rather liberal sense. “After the natives were gone I heard that some of my johns had engaged to bring women off in the morning, and it was therefore the reason perhaps that two of them designed to sleep on board.”
We have no reason to disbelieve his observations. Any navigator who sailed in an open boat, as Bligh did after the mutiny, over several thousands of miles of the unexplored open Pacific to safety at the nearest European settlement, Batavia, now the capital city of Jakarta in Indonesia, deserves respect and validation. Regardless of the circumstances that resulted in his being tossed from the Bounty with scant provisions by a crew that had become enchanted with the terrible beauty of Polynesia, he was a man who set forth to record all he saw.
But life on this tranquil outpost of Oceanic civilization received the first of its death blows at his hands, although Bligh could not have understood the tragedy about to unfold when he touched shore. The story of the coming of the missionaries in 1821 is well known and does not need to be repeated here. The tales of forced conversion, the bringing of diseases and epidemics that the “Christians” blamed on the Polynesian gods, the later blackbirding of the population and the relentless efforts of the Europeans to stamp out the old ways—these stories are horrific and yet accepted today as a matter of course.
With their bodies’ physical beauty covered by the whites in heavy nineteenth-century civilized clothing, the essence of the pre-contact natives was smothered irrevocably. Today no oral traditions remain of that first contact, and the missionaries did nearly a complete job of eliminating the old spirituality and the old ways.
The author Jared Diamond has noted that perhaps the biggest mistake humankind ever made was to quit the hunter/gatherer way of life and settle into towns and cities, where manipulative leaders were then able to force stifling societal rules and repression on hapless clans of formerly free people.
Whether or not this generalization holds much truth is still a matter of debate, but in Aitutaki the answer is painfully obvious.
Perhaps the wisest response we have to First Contact comes from the log of James Cook. Upon encountering the indigenous inhabitants of Australia for the first time, he recounted that they shouted at the English sailors an incomprehensible phrase. At the time no one in the explorers’ party understood the meaning of the words. Later they were found to impart a simple message: “Go away!”
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February 6, 2012 | 10:50 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
After seven years at sea and a year in Asia with my husband, George, I have touched ground in 108 countries. But we are far from the top elite of this hobby. This past December, we met Lee Abbamonte at a Traveler’s Century Club luncheon. He has currently checked off 301 of the world’s 321 countries! (December 2011 Traveler’s Century Club Meeting with Joan Schwarz, Pam Barrus (VP TCC), Lee Abbamonte (301 countries), and Lisa & George Rajna.)
My family has been counting, too. My parents rang in the New Year with us to celebrate their seventieth birthdays and nearly forty-nine years of marriage. My sister counted and collected over eight hundred photos that represented every decade of their lives, from images of their great-grandparents to their grandchildren, including shots of hilarious 1960s hairstyles, and our home’s mod wallpaper during the seventies.
Using the fantastic site, www.picturemosaics.com, we turned our collective photos into a photo mosaic masterpiece. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but this photo mosaic was so impressive that when we hung it in the photo and art gallery on the Voyager of the Seas to surprise our parents, total strangers inquired whether the piece might be for sale! I told them, “You can’t have ours, but I recommend you make your own!” Naturally my dad said, “Sell it to them! We can hang on the wall in their house also!”
I love the photo mosaic and I love the personal history it represents. I think I may create one from the five years George and I have spent together, including shots from our travels. Here is a novel and unique art project for travel pictures and now I can count one more important aspect of my own life.
Article first published as Count Something Important on Technorati.
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