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Published: August 30th 2007
It's always good to get back home again, especially after being on the road for three and half months. Sleeping in my own bed, fast Internet, bumping into friends on the street - there are so many things about Ottawa that I love. But I also love traveling, meeting new friends and enjoying (or sometimes enduring) new experiences. The three months I spent in Seychelles were a great experience, as were the past two weeks staying with friends in Rome.
Let me fill you in on a number of the highlights of the past few weeks before signing off. You'll recall that after spending my first two months on the main island of Mahe, we all went to Praslin. There, I was covering for Rev. Bryan who was away on a training course. On my second Sunday on Praslin, I was taken to a remote village way up on a mountain top, to lead a service for the community there. There was no church, just a shelter for a roof and a table set up as the altar. Right beside the altar was a pen with a giant tortoise inside. When it was time for the service, the villagers
Fairy Tern Feeding One Day Old Chick
We'd watched this fairy tern sitting on her egg for three days. On our fourth day there was a newly hatched chick in the nest, and the mother returned with fish in her beak to feed the chick.
came to the area around the shelter, most carrying their own chairs. It was the first time I've ever had a tortoise as part of the congregation.
A few days later we took a boat trip out to Cocos Island. We'd been told that this was the best snorkeling in the Seychelles, and we weren't disappointed. The boat ride was a bit of a rollercoaster, open seas and 2 m waves but when we made it into the shelter of the island, the snorkeling was amazing. The highlight was when Jonathan and I found a shark resting on the bottom. We had to dive down about 3 m to see this 2 m shark lying against a rock face. It was harmless, just a nursing shark, or as they call them in the Seychelles, a lazy shark. But it was the first time we'd ever snorkeled with a shark.
After Praslin, we flew to Bird Island for a four day holiday. Bird Island is a coral island, at the northern end of the Seychelles continental shelf. There is an amazing population of birds there, including a Sooty Tern colony of about two million birds! Can you
Jonathan, Michelle and I caught this huge sailfish off Bird Island. You should see how this guy jumped and fought to get free. I'm glad we only caught one - they belong in the ocean.
imagine what two million birds look like, especially in the evening when the parents are flying back to feed their young who have just hatched? It's an incredible sight.
The other highlight of Bird Island was the fishing. Jonathan, Michelle and I went sport fishing. Despite some big waves, we made it to where the continental shelf drops off into deep water, and we caught about 15 big fish, barracuda, bonito tuna and a 30 kg sailfish. The sailfish is an amazing fish. We hooked it 3 times, but each time it managed to jump clear of the water and get free from the hook. But the fourth time, despite jumping 3 or 4 times we managed to bring it in. The sight of it jumping with its full length out of the water and its huge sail rippling in the air was amazing. That night the cook at the hotel prepared some of it specially for us, as fresh shashimi and as grilled steaks.
Then it was a return to the capital of Victoria for a few days, and my last service at St. Paul's Cathedral. The service was broadcast nation-wide on radio, and I was
the preacher. At the end of the service during our goodbyes, I shed a few tears as I thought of all the new friends in the Seychelles that I would be leaving behind. It was a touching moment, but not one that I really wanted to be broadcast on the radio!
A round of visits with the various groups that I had been involved in, a great final Creole dinner with a big grilled red snapper organized by Tiana, and some goodbyes at the airport sent us on our way to our next destinations, Paris for a day, and then Italy where we visited with our good friends Jim and Rebecca and their children who are our neighbours in Ottawa, but have been posted to Rome for four years.
We spent a few days in Assisi and around Umbria region. After being in a place like Seychelles, which has an incredible natural beauty but is still a developing country, it was perhaps appropriate to spend some time following the paths of St. Francis of Assisi, who was so captivated by his discovery of the divine within nature and who rejected wealth for a life of poverty.
We also toured the sights of Rome, with all its history, art and architecture. I must say that there can't be a greater contrast between the dilapidated churches of the Seychelles and the monumental basilica of Rome with their incredible artwork, decoration and architecture. While I can appreciate the great human achievement represented by St. Peter's, St. Giovanni Laterano, Santa Maria de Popolo and other great church buildings, it is in a way more impressive to me that people continue to gather and worship in the rundown conditions of Holy Saviour and St. Luke's in Mahe and even under the little shelter beside the tortoise pen in Mont Plaisir, Praslin.
Thank you to all of you who have followed my blog, and sent me your comments and messages along the way. They have been a great encouragement to me, particularly during the first half of my trip while I was on my own and getting used to a new place. Thank you to Sally for restoring this blog after the server crash. Some of you I hope to see in September back home, and maybe even show you some slides if you haven't had enough already.
Stained Glass at St. Paul
Note the Coco de Mer palms and giant tortoise!
Best wishes for your own journeys, wherever they may take you. Enjoy the pictures.
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