The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Back Home Again

Dear Diane and I were away from home for about ten days, visiting friends in Bradenton, Florida and then sailing off on a brief, five-day cruise in the Western Caribbean. The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed our two port visits to Grand Cayman Island and Cozumel, Mexico. Our ship, the Carnival Paradise, was, despite its name, most un-Eden-like. The 2,500 or so passengers were of the younger, party-hearty persuasion so I spent much of my time searching for quiet, out of the way spots to sit and read while sipping one of those oddly named, umbrella garnished drinks. The food was reasonably good, good enough at least to satisfy my humble tastes.
Carnaval Paradise at anchor in Grand Cayman
We had visited Grand Cayman a few years ago so we decided to spend just a few hours in George Town window shopping and strolling along the waterfront. After a lovely lunch at a local restaurant, we returned to the ship and simply relaxed.

Diane - Grand Cayman
That's when I caught sight of a yacht owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The Tatoosh is nearly 300 feet long and comes equipped with just about everything, including its own helicopter. It reportedly cost Allen $160 million, but remarkably is not the largest of his yachts. Another, the Octopus, at 414 feet long is truly a mega-yacht. Octopus is the world's largest privately owned yacht and cost Allen $200 million back in 2003. It has a crew of 60 and sports two helicopters, one forward and one aft. And to think I spent several minutes in one Grand Cayman shop questioning whether I should buy one T-shirt or two. Apparently even Allen believes his two mega-yachts are one too many since he's put Tatoosh up for sale. If you're in the market, check out the details here.
Paul Allen's Tatoosh at anchor in Grand Cayman

I don't envy Paul Allen his wealth, but I do worry about where his salvation falls among his priorities. I suspect it would be very difficult to sail the Octopus, or even the Tatoosh, through the eye of a needle.

For me the highlight of the trip was a visit to the Mayan ruins at Coba on the Yucatan peninsula. Getting there involved a half-hour ferry ride from Cozumel to the mainland, and then an hour long bus ride to the ruins. Luis, our guide, is of Mayan descent and was able to provide interesting commentary along the way. After our arrival at the site, Luis led us on a one-mile forced march along a dirt road through the jungle. For someone who couldn't be over five feet tall, Luis could certainly walk fast.
Mayan Pyramid at Coba -- after my climb
The central edifice among the ruins is the great pyramid, reputed to be the site of human sacrifices of a truly horrific nature that involved heart removal and decapitation. We were told the Coba pyramid is the only Mayan pyramid visitors are still permitted to climb. Naturally I had to make the ascent. It wasn't as easy as it looks since it's quite steep and the steps are high, narrow and slippery, offering this aging body and its size-12 feet a definite challenge. The descent was actually scarier than the climb, but I was accompanied by a young Italian boy named Giacomo with whom I practiced my limited Italian. Like me, Giacomo was a bit anxious and so he and I encouraged each other and provided needed moral support on the way down: "Va bene, Giacomo, va bene."
About half-way up the pyramid
Another interesting ruin was the ball court, the site of highly competitive games with serious consequences. It seems the captain of the losing team would necessarily be sacrificed after his loss. I would guess the average Mayan preferred being a coach potato to an athlete.
The ball court where some very serious games were played
Skull-stone in floor of ball court -- added incentive to win

Since the infamous Mayan calendar ends on December 21, many people around the world apparently interpret this as a certain indication of an imminent, apocalyptic, world-ending calamity. I can say only that I encountered no eschatological signs during our visit. All was quiet and normal. Indeed, even the local vendors were busily selling rugs, onyx statues and other crafts, as well as snacks for our return bus ride. It would seem, then, that the Mayans themselves anticipate no catastrophe. And so when we returned home I saw no reason to delay putting up our Christmas decorations and buying gifts for the grandchildren.

Aren't you happy you weren't born in Yucatan 1,000 years ago? And happier still you don't have to worry about maintaining two mega-yachts? The very fact of our being is good, and we are all blessed by God in so many countless ways. Take some time today to thank Him for those blessings.

Pax et bonum...

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