The Crouching Lion and the Birds in Paradise

 There is an eating place in Awahu called The Crouching Lion.  I would not call it a restaurant, for it is not exactly what we think of when we hear the word.  The Crouching Lion is made of wood, built in a humble way, furnished just as humbly.  What it offers is good food, the warmth of its staff and proximity to the ocean.  So, when the tour group got there, I got to enjoy a tasty lunch, the sounds of the sea, and something more. 

 

When I finished my lunch, David said to me: “Come with me, there is something I want you to see.” 

We walked to the back of the place, which was clean and ample, until, to my surprise, we ended up in a courtyard.  And inside this courtyard were all these cages, big, big cages, housing quite a variety of parrots, lorries, parakeets, cocatoos, feathered in all the colors of the rainbow.  I was delighted by this surprise, as I was surrounded by all kinds of squawks, chirps, calls and songs.  David and I went around to look at each cage, and he described for me the birds that were in them.  In one cage there were two or three large parrots that were mostly red, with yellow and blue accents.  Another cage housed a good number of smaller lorries or parakeets that were either mostly blue, or yellow, or green.  There was a female sitting in her nest.  The sounds and display of colors was quite joyous, bright and lively.  When I thought we were finished enjoying the birds, David said: “There is still one more.”  We walked away from the courtyard until David brought me to the one he wanted me to see.

 

I found myself standing in the presence of this awesome macaw, who was very busy cracking peanut shells in order to get to the delicious food inside.  The macaw’s tail was long and red, his body blue, and his face speckled with black and white feathers.  The macaw was comfortably perched, but he was not inside a cage.  We stood for a moment watching and listening to him crack the shells and eat thepeanuts.  Then David felt tempted to pull on the bird’s very long, thin tail.  “I do not think so.” I said, thinking of the macaw’s formidable black beak.  Well, there had been no need for me to say anything after all.  As David slowly reached for the bird’s tail, the feathered one half turned and gave him a warning look.  Once the message was sent (and unequivocally received), the bird turned back to his peanuts.

 

I started to say hello to the bird, repeating the word a few times in a soft voice.  To our surprise and pleasure, the great macaw stopped eating, turned to face us and tried to repeat the word hello.  I said the word, and he tried again to repeat it.  It was obvious that someone was teaching him and he was a beginning student.  David said hello to the bird.  He looked at him for a secondas if to say: “What, you got some food for me or something?”  Then,having found David to be an uninteresting subject, he   turned his back to focus again on the peanuts.  David and I had a good laugh. 

We stood there for a little longer, as I said hello to the bird a few more times and was rewarded by his reply.  Then one of the ladies who cooks the food in this simple and wonderous place came over and gave the macaw a French fry.  The bird gently took the offering from the woman’s fingers with his powerful beak, then lifted one foot to grasp the treat and eat it, the same way he had done with the peanuts. 

 

And so I said good bye to this humble wood palace, with its open spaces that let in the sun and the sounds and smells of the ocean, its magical courtyard populated by gorgeous birds, and its presiding great macaw.  May The Crouching Lion continue to give its foods for body and soul for many years to come.

Pearl Harbor: From Sacred to Profaned

Included in our tours of the islands of Hawaii was a visit to Pearl Harbor, where the war began for America in 1941.  I did not know what to expect there and, oh, how I wish I had. 

 

On our way to Pearl Harbor, our tour guide gave us the details of what we would find.  There would be a souvenir shop, ever present in every tourist trap around the world.  We were told that some of the survivors of the attack who were still living would be seated in a particular area wearing a cap with the word “Survivor” displayed in big letters on the front.  The idea was for the tourists to approach them and talk with them or ask questions. 

 

The more I listened, the less I liked it, but the kicker (literally for me) was that we would be stepping to and standing on the actual memorial, which is right above the remains of the sunken USS Arizona.  Obviously, the memorial was designed in such a way that people could get as close to the remains as possible and take a look. 

 

I was thoroughly disgusted and offended.  “Are you telling me that we are going to step on that tomb?” I asked David. 

“We are not going to step on the ship, we will be standing on the memorial above it.” he replied.

 

This did not make any difference to me.  It is true that I am a believer in the Lord God and I try to be as faithful to the Bible as possible.  So I do not believe that the souls of the dead can roam the Earth, or that the living can summon the soul of a dead person back in the world of the living.  Yet, from my cultural roots, I still have ingrained in me a deep respect for the dead, and a deep sense of their sacredness.  The dead are sacred because, in life, they loved and were the loved ones of other people.  Those who leave us forever inevitably wound our hearts with great pain and that terrible sense of loss.  Our loved ones’ remains, the graves and burial grounds they inhabit, are the symbols of the grief, pain and loss of the living.  Well, call me supersticious or old fashioned, but walking on someone’s grave is an insult to the living and desecration of the dead. 

 

Not only was I faced unexpectedly with this issue, but here the whole situation was a lot worse.  The USS Arizona became the tomb, the marine coffin of a large number of men that were killed in the attack that brought the United States into World War II.  Today, this undersea cemetery is a circus, a tourist trap for people to go see a documentary film about that day, board a Navy boat to be ferried to where the Arizona is, get out of the boat and in the memorial to walk around itt  to finally reach the guard rail that is the barrier between the people and the Arizona below.  All around me, I could hear the loud talking and laughing of the adults, and the running feet and yells of the children. 

 

A moment later, it was walking back through the memorial into the boat, being ferried away from the site, getting back to the main area, disembarking and moving on to the next thing.  As usual, there was some time left before the bus came for us in case anyone wanted to run to the souvenir shop and purchase some crappy trinket likely to bear the name “Pearl Harbor” and have the usual small sticker saying “Made in China.”

 

The whole experience left a really bad taste in my mouth.  I feel that what those entombed men deserve is a tasteful and beautiful memorial that people could see from a respectful distance.  No souvenir shop, no survivors parading themselves around like a freak show, no steping right above the ship and gawking.  How about giving those killed and sent to the bottom of the sea at Pearl Harbor on that terrible day some respect?

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