Soliloquy in an International Cloister

Watch your step as Brother Lawrence takes you inside the monastery walls of a five hundred year-old international order. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wish you had ignored your hormones and joined the monastery.

My Photo
Location: Rome, Italy

11 February 2008

Singapore again

I am back in the Singapore airport—hour 5 of a 10 hour layover. Unlike my layover here last week, this time I have no access to a frequent flyer lounge. Bummer! This has to be one of the nicest airports in the world. The fact that I am writing this on a freely available computer with Internet access should give you an idea. They also have freely available massage chairs, among other free amenities. If one has a little money, you can take advantage of lounges with recliners, showers, manicures, massages and a gym. There is even a transit hotel, where you can rent a room for as little as six hours.

Although it is nice, I feel that I have explored every lounge, restaurant and duty free store that the airport has to offer. As a vacation destination, I really cannot recommend it.

The one week I spent in Indonesia was quite interesting. Northern Sumatra, where I was, is home to the Batak. The highlight of the trip was a visit to Samosir, which is an island in Lake Toba. That is, it's an island in a lake on an island in the ocean. Samosir was considered a sacred spot for the Batak. I was heard that any non-Batak who managed to find the island would be killed to prevent him from revealing its location. Luckily for me, that is no longer the AAARGH!

Ha ha. Just kidding!

Anyway, the Indonesian government has been trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to market Samosir and Lake Toba as a tourist spot. It really merits greater attention. The lake is beautiful, and the government has gone to great lengths to keep it clean. Since it lies at a relatively high altitude, the climate is quite pleasant. Samosir itself is like a museum of Batak culture—with tradition homes and the distinctive tombs of their celebrated ancestors. Now, if they would only improve the road from Medan.

I normally avoid acquiring souvenirs on my visits, except for a few postcards. For one thing, fitting two or three weeks of necessities into a bag that can be carried on the plane leaves little room for souvenirs. This time, however, I made an exception and picked up a nice stomach virus to remind me of my visit to Indonesia.

03 February 2008

A quick post

It's 4:30 a.m., and I am sitting in a lounge in Singapore's Changi airport, having arrived here from Los Angeles via Tokyo. I am waiting for a flight to Medan, Indonesia. Two days ago, I was in western Canada, where the high temperature was -1 degree. When we arrived in Singapore around 1:30 a.m., the temperature was 24 degrees. Do I ever feel ridiculous carrying around a heavy coat in the tropics.

In Canada, I attended the episcopal ordination of our former general minister (the top guy in our Order). The poor guy has gone from being in charge of an Order with 11,000 members to being in charge of a diocese with 36 priests. Alright, there are 65,000 Catholics in his diocese, but it still must feel like a step down. And he looks terrible in purple. He was always the type of brother who liked being around other brothers. Now the nearest monastery is at least 10 hours away by car. It seems more like a punishment than an honor.

I'll be spending about 10 days in Indonesia, then another 10 days in Papua New Guinea before heading back to Rome. Obviously, I am excited about having another opportunity to contract malaria or some other strange tropical disease.

Internet access in both places will be rather limited so I'll finally have a good excuse for not posting to my blog.