Of Boats & Bridges

Connecting lands and languages

communities and cultures

Countries and continents

 

Both must consent

To shorten the distance

Between us and them

 

People and objects

Ideas and visions

Cross the waters

… on Boats and Bridges

 

Years before I started this blog, I pondered the analogies of boats and bridges.  The later made its way into the blog’s full name: crossing oceans, bridging cultures.  The former became the metaphor for my transition from California to Hawai’i and then the image for my Europe Voyage.  I love the idea of boats and bridges because they make it possible for cultures to meet one another and intersect.

me & brenda ferry ride
I met Brenda, from Singapore, a year and a half ago in Hawai’i while she studied abroad.  We never would have guessed the next place we’d meet would be Istanbul–the gateway city to East & West.  Here we enjoy our first of many delightful ferry rides across the Bosphorus.

Traveling to Istanbul, Turkey a few weeks ago, I was delighted to find both boats and bridges spanning the short distance across the Bosporus, transporting people between their homes in Asia and work places in Europe.  Grown men waiting for the ferry gates to open would sprint gleefully to get the best seats on deck where they could feel the cool sea breeze run through their hair, a reminder that the child within never grows too old for play.

At night, Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge looks like a giant kiss.  This is the place where East met West, danced beneath a star-studded sky and decided they must be wed.  Their marriage give birth to a bunch of beautiful children of mixed-culture who straddle the continents and shorten the divide.  They’re not exactly European or Asian, but also not wholly Middle Eastern either.  Rather they’re a lovely mix of each.

bosphorus bridge
Bosphorus Bridge, Istanbul

In modern times, boats have given way to air ships which we call planes.  Now we soar above the skies, gazing at the beautiful landscapes below of lands and seas and the ships crossing between them.  But boats haven’t always transported willing riders and some lands haven’t always been willing recipients of new arrivals.  Tracing the story of human migration, reveals a patchwork of both willing and unwilling migrations.  Boats and bridges are not always so pretty.

When my Europe Voyage had come to a close, I crossed the Atlantic ocean in a Norwegian Air-ship and landed in Boston.  I spent 2 days wandering around some of the United States’ most prestigious colleges at Harvard and MIT and walking through our nation’s early history on the Freedom Trail.  Juxtaposed with America’s fight for “freedom” from the oppressive Brits, was the plight of enslaved Africans who weren’t permitted the kinds of freedoms that white men and women fought to gain for themselves.  Amidst old roads and churches, the story of the Native American tribes who received the white man to their shores were deafeningly silent.

Ever since my visit to Boston, I’ve been haunted by a painting I saw I my friend’s living room.  At first glance the impressionistic image in soothing pastels of a bridge crossing a river invited me into its aesthetic calm.  But I quickly awoke from my reverie at the realization that the bridge was broken… it started on one side but didn’t connect to the other.  It was disturbing to look at a picture of a broken bridge—who would paint such a thing anyway?

broken bridge

I see myself as that bridge—I want to stand in the gap between nations that have misunderstood one another and have a marred history; I want to draw them together at a table of brotherhood where they can look upon one another as equals and mend all their past misdeeds.  But the bridge is broken.  I am broken.  The nations are broken. 

And this is why I set off in my boat to go on a Europe Voyage:  I needed to embark on my own healing journey before I aim to carry my hope for healing across oceans.  As I yield to the God of Nations to repair my broken bridge, my healing can be extended to others.   The bridging must happen within me—between the nations I carry in my blood stream and the peoples of the lands where we have settled–before it can happen through me. 

The 400 year-old bridge to the Americas is broken because the nations that crossed the ocean mistreated the nations already in the land and vice versa.  Perhaps those in the land never wanted a bridge there anyway—did we ever think to ask?  This broken bridge is begging for repair lest unsuspecting people continue to drop off its precarious edge into the raging river below.

There is still much more work to be done.

 

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