Back Safe and Sound!
It was a wonderful trip with my dear wife, Sally, and our very special old friends.
Transiting the Panama Canal was a stunning experience: a reminder of “Bully Times” for America and the strong Presidential leadership of Teddy Roosevelt. The human sacrifices required to built this canal were unimaginable.
My visits to the countries of Central America brought many conflicted images and feelings. There were marvelous mountainous vistas with lush rain forests mixed with expanses of public domains glistening in the sun with dense fields of plastic bottles and containers of all descriptions, broken chairs and tables, and all manner of refuse in the ditches and on the hillsides.
There were a great many wonderful, kind and courteous people who we met along with a few civilians who were openly carrying AK 47’s. In Acapulco, there were police armed with assault rifles everywhere.
At some of the ship’s landings other citizens aggressively hounded us to buy their products or ride in their cabs–one literally chased me as I tried to politely decline and get away.
I will never forget a bus tour guide to who received a phone call as he guided us, telling him that he a won a trip to the United States as “guide of the year” from his tour company. Near tears, he announced to us that this was one of the greatest days of his life. This man was, in fact, one of the finest guides I had ever seen. As a child in Nicaragua, his parents were targeted during the civil war by the Sandinistas and they fled for their lives to the U.S.. Sometime after the end of the revolution, he returned to Nicaragua as a patriot. His parents had since passed away and he spoke so very lovingly his country, its struggle to develop its resources, and his great hopes for its future. I can only pray for the best for this man and all his fellow citizens.
Beyond the city, in the hills and mountains, are a great many people who scratch out a living by selling the art, artifacts and foods that they make to tourists. There are very small businesses everywhere attached to crudely constructed tin and wooden hovels that are homes. The economy there is socialistic and I can see no other workable option for them at this time. School through college and medicine are free. There were great numbers of adults laying in hammocks or sitting on steps or at tables on dirt side yards in the shade of tropical trees and plants. The cities bustled in contrast to great inactivity in outlying areas where the relative population indolence associated with socialism was plain to see.
In Mexico, my friend Vic and I went skin diving, as we have since adolescence. The Pacific waters were warm and inviting and we saw the familiar sights of reefs and colorful tropical fish along with an unexpected gift from the sea. This “gift” was a blowfish, all puffed-up to about twelve inches in diameter. This dear creature tolerated our gently holding and inspecting him, before we let it go on it slow and wobbly way.
One painful memory will not go away. Now by my computer is a small and darling brightly colored ceramic tropical bird. It is a child’s whistle. While waiting, after a tour to board our ship in Nicaragua, many children were on the dock selling these little tickets in the hot sun. One little unhappy looking sales girl caught my eye and she reminded my of my own little granddaughter. She was perhaps seven years old and brightly attired in native colors and dress. I assumed that her parents had sent her to work on the docks. I felt sad for her and wondered about the future that she would have.
On impulse, I gave her a five dollar bill for one of her little 50 cent whistles and she looked stunned as I smiled, thanked her and walked away. Within a second a boy of about ten years was bumping into me and desperately asking for money…”Please sir, for me, for me”! Stunned, I saw other sales children watching. I said “No, I’m sorry” and I walked away. As I walked, a sickening feeling grew in my stomach. Both the boy, and now I, had been traumatized by my gift to the little girl.
I am still troubled by my not giving some money to this boy, but then there would have been another child begging and still more…but this excuse does not make the thought of my saying “ No” to this boy any easier on me.
I will never forget the sound of the boys voice, “Please sir, for me, for me!”, and I will always feel sad for him and all of the other children.
It felt so good to return to my home in America. Yes, we are in trouble here, and things are far from perfect. But it is still a most wonderful place on earth to live, raise our families and grow old. We must fight the destructive forces of our undoing to keep it that way.
Finally, I love ships and the sea. I hope I never have to fly anywhere ever again.