Thursday, July 22, 2010

Work in Ternate Begins with a Ceremony

A palace and a chance to meet a real Sultan! Representing Project HOPE at the opening ceremonies for this stop of our mission in Ternate were Lynn Bemiller, our medical director, and Ellen Fernando, one of our nurses who had a day of liberty from her responsibilities in the ship’s pediatric ward. Your blogger went along, too, excited for yet another opportunity to connect with the gracious people of Indonesia.

The American Consul General Kristen Bauer opened the ceremony, speaking entirely in Indonesian. She began her job here only five days ago, and her fluency seems symbolic to me of the extreme courtesy and warmth demonstrated amongst the people who represent the countries participating in the Pacific Partnership.

Resplendent in a traditional palace uniform - electric blue velvet and a thick, woven cap - a spokesman for the Sultanate talked movingly about the historical friendship between the U.S. and Indonesia. U.S. and Australian forces assisted in the safe removal of the Sultan who ruled during WWII and our assistance during the pending Japanese invasion is still remembered nearly 70 years later. A 92-year old former aide to that Sultan was present at the ceremony, and afterwards, explained to us the meaning of the large, gold, two-headed bird called “Zohba” that dominates the pavilion in which the ceremony took place. “It has two heads to represent the many Indonesian people,” he said, “And one heart to show that we are united.” When asked why the heart is upside-down, he said that it indicates that people remember their ancestors and their history.

The Mercy’s Captain Franchetti spoke about how the Pacific Partnership began with the joint relief efforts after the Tsunami of 2004, and how our continued relationships prepare all involved countries for responding to natural disasters.

After all the speeches were done, and gifts exchanged, we were given the opportunity to view the sultan’s jeweled crown, kept under glass and behind heavy velvet drapes. After everyone oohed and aahed, the drapes were again drawn shut, and one of the guards then faced the wall, head down. I wondered if he were saying a prayer of some sort, perhaps required after opening the crown to public display. But no, when he turned, I had to laugh at myself: He was talking on his cell phone. PS. Two cell phones went off during the ceremony, making me grateful that our American phones don’t work here!

Each of the Indonesian leaders who spoke this morning opened his remarks with “Good morning and peace be with you.” Many in the audience responded, “and peace be with you.” Despite the stiffness of all the uniforms, and the formality of these types of ceremonies, the intention and hope inherent in that exchange felt all warm and fuzzy.

We are seeing thousands of patients with medical needs on this trip, yet all that happened this morning reminds me that our mission is so much bigger. We are waging peace, and this morning it seemed that peace among nations gained new ground.

Thanks for your interest in Project HOPE -- Kathryn Allen, HOPE Public Affairs Officer

1 comment:

  1. Matthew McCormackAugust 3, 2010 at 8:11 AM

    Good work mom (Sandi McCormack), we are proud of you for making a difference and bringing HOPE to the people of Haiti.