and pirates in the water
We have spent the last few days visiting Colombo on the island country of Sri Lanka and then Cochin on the southeast corner of India. Both places have a lot in common: dense population, ethnic and religious diversity, and a bustling upbeat spirit of enterprise in spite of widespread poverty. Yes, there are beggars on the streets but there are also busy market vendors and small roadside businesses. Perhaps the most hopeful sign of all is the children dressed proudly in their school uniforms walking along the streets with bright smiling faces, wanting to practice their English. It is the children who are the real wealth of Sri Lanka and India - and of our own country as well - and it is the children who are the future.
One of the experiences we enjoyed in Cochin was Ketakali theater. All the parts are taken by men and their costumes are elaborate - as is their makeup. The drama tells mythic stories of good versus evil, and the music is loud and fast and scary.
Now we are on our way across the Indian Ocean to the Maldives and then to Africa. The ship’s captain has announced that for the next week we will be traveling through an area where there is a high risk of encountering Somali pirates. For some years these outlaws have been capturing ships in the Indian Ocean. The pirates attack in small fast boats and use ladders to climb up the sides of the ship they have targeted. Once aboard, the armed pirates take command of the vessel and demand huge ransoms from the ship’s owners.
The captain explained that while the Silver Whisper is in the high risk area, special precautions will be taken. At night we will be sailing with a minimum of shipboard lights to make the ship as invisible as possible. Passengers need to close the curtains in their cabins and the outside lights are turned off. Fire hoses and spotlights and noise machines have been placed on the decks, and the lower open decks are closed to provide greater security. In the event of a pirate attack, there will be five short blasts on the ship’s whistle and an announcement of “Stand by! Stand by! Stand by!” Passengers are then to retreat to the ship’s inner corridors for safety and to sit on the floor because our ship will increase speed and take a zigzag course to make waves that will make it difficult for pirates to come alongside. The captain emphasized that although precautions ned to be taken, a pirate attack is unlikely. We hope he is right!