June 27, 2013
Wesley Richard, scribe
Perhaps the Ocean View Café on Deck 14 was busy this morning at 6:30 because we gained an hour during the night, or, more likely, because we were all anticipating the final step on our Mediterranean Tour. At any rate, as we watched the Celebrity back slowly into its place at the Naples pier, the first question we heard Lores Hochstetler ask was, “Have you started to pack yet?” Today was a day of last things.
As Randy Longenecker opined, our half-day tour of the Pompeii ruins provided a fitting closure to our AMBS tour. By now we knew what to expect when we disembarked—a skilled bus driver and a knowledgeable tour guide. We were not disappointed. Nadia began to describe the landscape as soon as we started motoring through the main square of Naples, and with good humor and occasional wise cracks provided cultural and historical insights the entire time.
We learned that Naples had been bombed in World War 2, but that it was really a new town because Pompeii used to be on the sea coast until Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. Since then it has often erupted at 50-year intervals. Its next eruption is now overdue! But not to worry: there is always an earthquake first!
Mount Vesuvius used to be 9,000 feet high, but it lost two-thirds of its height when it exploded, spewing ash and fire and covering some areas with up to 96 feet of lava. Many people died at the beach because the water cut off their way of escape.
As we walked the mile-long Main Street of old Pompeii, lined with its shops, marble columns, and tiled floors, we exclaimed at the amenities the Romans had supplied over two millennia ago: sewage system, central heating in the spas, and running water, albeit through lead pipes, which probably contributed to the deterioration of the mental health of its aristocracy. We were so impressed with the acoustics of the reconstructed theater that our voices erupted in singing the Mennonite version of the Doxology (#606) to the amazement of other tour groups standing nearby.
But we stood speechless as we scrutinized the plaster bodies of volcano victims in glass displays. (The ash had hardened around the bodies and the flesh had decayed inside, leaving only the skeleton. The space was then injected with plaster to fill the cavity, and when the hardened ash was peeled away, only the shape of the body remained.)
We did not have time to get to the Catholic Church, but when the bus engine suddenly died at an intersection and refused to start, Nadia reminded us that we should have taken the time to stop and pray to the Virgin Mary. “This is a place of miracles,” she told us. Fortunately, the driver was able to apply his charm and the bus started again, much to everyone’s relief, especially the honking drivers behind us.
Last things continued to unfold the remainder of the day. At lunch, Ricky Schrag decided to visit the dessert bar one more time because, “This is the last day,” she said.
Sue and I decided to make our way to the hot tub for one last soak, where we met our new friend from Chicago one more time, an Iraqi who came to the U.S. with his parents in 1976 after Saddam Hussein became president, . . . because “he would not be good for the country.” Our friend is now in pharmacology with 70 employees under him, working on what he is sure will become “personalized drugs” for cancer and other diseases, drugs that will target specific genes. He said we will not likely see it in this generation, but our descendants certainly will.
Later, we went to the Café to say goodbye to our friend Mildred from the Dominican Republic, a devout Christian who appreciated Sue’s daily words of encouragement. The group gathered around our designated tables on the third floor for our last supper of a rich assortment of foods from the printed menu. We were able to help celebrate Earl and Margaret Sutter’s 60th wedding anniversary by singing as a waiter placed a cake with a candle in front of them.
We then moved to the pool deck on top for a final photo and a couple of wonderful choral numbers, including “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.”
On our way up, Galen Miller told me, “When I got on this ship, I thought it would last forever, and here it is, the last night!”
I guess it is true that all good things must come to an end.
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Welcome to this window on the 2013 Mediterranean Cruisetour. As Sara Wenger Shenk, AMBS president, and Loren Johns, AMBS professor of New Testament, and 43 other travelers explore the places where the Apostle Paul traveled, they will share photos and reports here. Come back to this space for what we hope will be daily snapshots in words and photos of what the group is experiencing.
Visit Menno Travel to learn more about the Cruisetour.