Long about New Year's Eve I was hearing a lot of mumbling and grumbling about 2008, talking heads saying that thank goodness 2008 is over. Well, yes, the economic messiness of the last couple of months of 2008 was bad thing and embarking on a brand spanking new 2009 is a good thing, even though that economic crisis will surely get worse in 2009 before it gets better.
I have to say, though, that, on the whole, 2008 was very good to me. First, Bill and I got to visit Hawaii. Then we had our Community Circle in Orlando and that was lots of fun. After that we spent a week with Loes and Theo in Toronto where we got to have dinner with Greg's delightful family. Then, most recently, Bill and I were lucky enough to visit the Amazon, spending 26 days aboard a small ship round trip from Miami. Nothing to complain about there. Most importantly, everyone in our family is in good health and, after a two month kind of scary glitch, all the adults are employed. To top it off, my favorite, most dearest niece and her husband (Okay, my only niece, but she is most dear to me.) are, after several difficult and disappointing years of trying, expecting their first born. There was that terrible time when our son lost his job, but he begins a new one next week. It's at half the salary of the job he lost, but it's a job in his field and he's been able to drum up some part time work to make up the difference. So maybe 2008 wasn't all good, but it certainly wasn't all bad.
Now, I don't know what 2009 will bring. There will probably be some bad stuff and some good stuff, just like other years. In any case, it's always nice to have a clean slate to write on. I hope that what will be written on your slate are health, joy and prosperity for you and all in your family.
The photo above was taken on Devil's Island in French Guiana. Well, not EXACTLY Devil's Island. Apparently there is a group of 3 islands commonly known as The Devil's Islands. All three of the islands were used as the French penal colony. The island actually named Devil's Island, once used for solitary confinement, is pretty much inaccessible. We visited Royale Island, where some of the other prisoners were kept and the guards and administrators lived with their families. Bill and I are smiling in the picture because it was taken as we began our climb. Had the picture been taken upon our return it would look a lot different!
Now, about that trip up the Amazon . . .
I'll be telling you more about it in blogs and pictures to come, but the one main thing I came away with was a renewed appreciation for how lucky I am for how and where I live and all that I have, both spiritually and materially. But there was something else in a small island village at the mouth of the Valeria River. There was poverty to be sure, but all the children were well fed and appeared healthy. They were laughing and playing, running in and out under the houses. The ship we were on calls at that village only once a year and, to my knowledge, is the only ship that calls there. Our visit was a great annual event and I'm sure that the children were turned out in their nicest clothes. Yes, the locals offered handicrafts for sale and yes, the children put
out their hands for payment when their pictures were taken. The cruise line sent ashore donations of school supplies and a pile of bathrobes that were promptly sold right back to the passengers. (What else would one who lives 3° south of the Equator do with a thick terrycloth bathrobe?) We made cash donations to the school and the church, purchased lots of handicrafts and took lots of pictures. As we went back to the ship I said to another passenger, "What must they think of us?" We agreed: not very much. Boca de Valeria and her laughing children will stay with me for a long time.
The babies on the right are twin girls, probably identical (My Portuguese really isn't very good.) I know the one in the back is Patricia because I heard her mother call her that as she attempted to put a feathered bonnet on her for pictures. Patricia had other plans. Pushing the stroller was one of the proudest papas I've ever seen.
As I said, I'll have stories and pictures for you in future blogs. I have just under 2,000 photos to go through . . . Until then, here is a small collection of Amazonion faces from Boca de Valeria, Manaus and Santarém:
I reiterate my fondest wishes for you for the coming year. You are my friends, my family, my neighborhood. Let's all hope that 2009 will be good to us.