June 27, 2019

Azzo Rezori: Going on a cruise, and going on a ride

Of all the Sesame Street songs I’ve hummed and whistled to over the years, Going For A Ride is my favourite.

It runs over three verses.

A line in the first verse: “Gonna sit behind the wheel.”

In the second verse: “Gonna speed along the track.”

In the third: “Gonna sail the ocean blue.”

There’s already been a lot of ‘wheel’ and ‘track’ in my life, but not nearly enough ‘ocean blue’. So it’s always the third verse that comes to my mind when I think of the song.

Oh I’m going for a ride

I’m, gonna sail the ocean blue

And I’m gonna be a captain

And I’m gonna have a crew

Gonna sail the seven seas

On the water I will float

‘Cause I’m going for a ride

And I’m riding in a boat.

Well, that’s just what we did the week before last, my wife Brenda, our daughter Gaia, and I — we went on a cruise of the western Caribbean starting and ending in Miami. 

Our first cruise ever.

Getting away from our old selves

It was all about getting away, of course. Away from our same old selves. Away from the people around us who have their own vested interests in us being safely and predictably our same old selves. Away from this place which has played such a crucial role in shaping our same old selves.

Going on the cruise did the trick, even without any of us being the captain and having a crew.

There was no need to keep asking “How am I doing?” The question quickly became, “How’s the world doing?”, and the world replied, “Never mind how I’m doing. You wouldn’t understand anyway. I just am.”

That was good enough for me.  

There was the early morning stroll through the neighbourhoods around our Miami hotel with proof at every corner that things can be different, that the plants we can only cultivate inside up here do thrive outside down there, that coconuts do grow on trees, that Spanish-speaking people really are reclaiming Miami after they lost it to the United States two centuries ago.

Living in a floating village

There was the novelty of making a cabin our home for a week, of learning to find our way through the lanes and alleys of a floating village, of getting to know all kinds of people we’ll never see again. 

We were constantly torn between differences and similarities. No familiar whirling and screeching of sea birds greeted us as we docked at Cozumel Island off the Mexican coast, yet, like the wind-swept barrens of Newfoundland, the low-lying island was covered with its own kind of tuckamore, a tangle of dwarf palms and tropical trees. 

On the jungle trek to cave tubing in Belize we were shown a palm tree which carries small red berries that self-ignite after dropping to the ground and cause wild fires that regenerate the forests. There was also the killer tree which smothers other trees by wrapping itself around them.

The caves are mile-long tunnels with underground streams moving darkly past underground beaches, the walls and ceilings gnarled and twisted with formations that make you wonder how solid rock can flow. Next thing you find asking yourself what comes first in this crazy world, flow or pattern. And while you drift through another cave past another underground beach you realize there’s no either or, it’s all the same, flow and pattern are like energy and matter – two faces of the same thing.

While watching the sun set from our cruise ship balcony, we figured out how the ancients of Egypt and of the Americas came up with the same idea of building pyramids. 

No wonder they worshipped the sun

Was it the Egyptians who crossed the Atlantic and taught the Mayans, as some believe? Was it the Mayans who crossed first and taught the Egyptians, according to others?

It doesn’t have to be one or the other in this case either. Both the Egyptians and the Mayans were sun worshippers and would have noticed on their respective horizons how some sunsets send out shafts of rays that rise like pyramid-shaped altars over the sea and earth.      

In Roatan we spent the day on a small island set up as a sanctuary for rescued animals, while a reluctant jaguar gets dragged to the beach every day so tourists can have their picture taken with it in the water.

On the sandbar inside the barrier reef off Grand Cayman Island we swam with sting rays and weren’t sure who was mobbing whom, they us, or we them. 

The reef itself is slowly dying and looked through our snorkeling masks like a ruined city with tumbles upon tumbles of broken structures stacked on top of each other.

Nothing was obvious yet everything exotically self-explanatory. 

Amid all this diversity of being, our same old selves simply shrank away. And that was the whole point.

They came back though.

Not a single four-letter word of frustration passed my lips while we were on the cruise. I counted at least a dozen on my first day back to work.

So be it till the next ride.

Excerpt from:

Azzo Rezori: Going on a cruise, and going on a ride

Top Asian News at 4:30 p.m. GMT

SINUI ISLAND, South Korea (AP) — He ran the first chance he got. The sun beat down on the shallow, sea-fed fields where Kim Seong-baek was forced to work without pay, day after 18-hour day mining the big salt crystals that blossomed in the mud around him. Half-blind and in rags, Kim grabbed another slave, and the two disabled men headed for the coast.

PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia (AP) — After nearly a week of searching for the victims of AirAsia Flight 8501, rescue teams battling monsoon rains had their most successful day yet on Friday, more than tripling the number of bodies pulled from the Java Sea, some still strapped to their seats. Of the 30 corpses recovered so far, 21 were found on Friday, many of them by a U.S. Navy ship, according to officials.

SURABAYA, Indonesia (AP) — If AirAsia bounces back from its first fatal disaster, much of the credit will go to its effusive founder Tony Fernandes and a well-oiled communications machine. From the highly visible compassion shown by Fernandes to details such as changing the airline’s bright red logo to a somber gray online, experts say the Malaysia-based budget carrier’s initial response to the tragedy is a textbook example of how to communicate in a crisis.

SURABAYA, Indonesia (AP) — At the muddy gravesite where Hayati Lutfiah Hamid was buried, something was missing. Though around 150 villagers had gathered to lay the first identified victim of AirAsia Flight 8501 to rest, the people who would mourn her most were not there. Her husband, Djoko Suseno, 9-year-old daughter, Naura Kanita Rosada Suseno, and mother-in-law, Soemanik Saeran, are all still missing in the Java Sea after their plane went down Sunday, killing all 162 people on board.

SHANGHAI (AP) — Like hundreds of thousands of other revelers, 24-year-old Pan Haiqin decided to ring in the new year on Shanghai’s famed riverfront as the skyscrapers flashed and sparkled. But as the crowd grew and then turned into an out-of-control crush of bodies, the real estate professional never made it up steps to a viewing platform to see the dazzling lights. Nearly 20 hours later, her parents and friends identified her trampled body in a city morgue, one of 36 people killed in one of the deadliest accidents in this showcase Chinese city. Some 49 others were injured.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Brothers of an Australian Al-Jazeera English journalist held in Egypt for more than a year said Friday that their lawyers were focusing on deportation at President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s command as their best option. An Egyptian appeals court on Thursday ordered the retrial of three Al-Jazeera English journalists including Peter Greste held on terror-related charges, a ruling that their lawyers hoped was a step toward resolving a case that brought a storm of international criticism on Egypt’s government.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — Two Afghan soldiers have been arrested in connection with the deaths of at least 28 people, mostly women and children, who were killed by artillery fired from military checkpoints at a wedding party, an official said Friday. Gen. Sultan Mahmoud, the head of the army in southern Helmand province, where the incident took place on Wednesday night, said the soldiers were arrested late on Friday. Another eight soldiers were still under investigation, he told The Associated Press.

BEIJING (AP) — A senior Chinese diplomat has been removed from his position and is being investigated for an unspecified disciplinary violation. A two-sentence statement from the Foreign Ministry did not offer more details Friday about the removal of Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Kunsheng. The China News Service reported that Zhang was the head of the ministry’s protocol department.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Prince Norodom Ranariddh, a former prime minister of Cambodia who was ousted in a coup and later expelled from the political party he helped found, is seeking a comeback. Ranariddh said in a letter to current leaders of the royalist Funcinpec party that he was accepting their invitation to reassume its presidency. It had removed him in 2006 for alleged incompetence.

In this photo by Heng Sinith, a Cambodian farmer climbs a sugar palm tree to collect palm juice. The farmer, 42-year-old Sam Leng, earns $5 a day by selling juice, a popular refreshment in Southeast and South Asia. It is extracted by cutting the stalk bearing the flowers and hanging a bamboo container to collect the juice, usually overnight. The sweet, fresh juice, normally harvested between November and March, is sold in containers carried by vendors over the shoulder or on bicycles.

BEIJING (AP) — Images of bodies and wreckage floating in Indonesian waters gave relatives of those lost aboard AirAsia Flight 8501 anguish and grief, but they also provided the answers that other families have sought in vain for nearly 10 months. Those with loved ones aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 can only imagine what has happened to them, and can only hope to one day know for sure.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in a New Year’s speech Thursday that he is open to more talks or even a summit with his South Korean counterpart, a statement welcomed by Seoul, which in turn urged the North to take concrete steps toward normalization of relations. Kim’s call for improving inter-Korea relations comes as Pyongyang is facing heightened criticism over its human rights record and souring ties with Washington over allegations it was involved in the massive hacking attack on Sony Pictures linked to “The Interview,” a dark comedy that portrayed an assassination attempt on Kim.

Revelers crowded New York’s Times Square and converged on the beaches of Brazil and skyscrapers of Dubai to say good riddance to a turbulent 2014 marred by terror woes, Ebola outbreaks and a horrific series of airline disasters. But tragedy struck in Shanghai, Baghdad was on edge and protesters in the United States delivered a sobering reminder of one of the year’s biggest stories.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A huge blaze believed to have been ignited by firecrackers razed nearly a thousand shanties and killed three people in a creekside slum in the Philippine capital, one of more than a dozen fires across the country linked to raucous New Year’s celebrations. Strong winds fanned the flames racing through nearly a kilometer (half a mile) -long row of shanties in a village in suburban Quezon city in metropolitan Manila before dawn Thursday, said village officer Noel Carino. Firefighters struggled to get near the burning shanties because of narrow alleys.

An AirAsia jet with 162 people on board crashed Sunday morning while flying from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore on a scheduled two-hour flight. Here’s a look at the latest developments: ___

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Top Asian News at 4:30 p.m. GMT