Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Now Released: Cross On Me – A Novel By Arie Uittenbogaard


A brilliant man flees from reality and drives in a panic from scientific Boston to the wilderness of Alaska. When his father learns of his son's plight, he sets out to find him. Before they can meet again, both men must pay an ultimate price.

In his ambitious, literary epic, Dutch-born author Arie Uittenbogaard shows the north American continent through the eyes of two displaced foreigners who are desperately looking for each other. Their quest takes them from the latest scientific findings to the ancient wisdoms of the Bible, from the Dutch city of Leiden to the arctic shore of Alaska, from the howling infinite of fiction and the squalls of madness to the folly of knowledge and the essence of redemption.
Cross On Me follows the trail blazed by Dante and Bunyan, and shows a modern day and unlikely Nazarene whose powerful father has to relinquish everything, follow his son into his grave and raise him from the death he died.

Arie Uittenbogaard is a former maritime engineer who moved to Massachusetts to study theology. He worked on cargo and cruise ships and spent most of his summers in Alaska. Today he and his wife live in Belgium and Serbia.
Arie Uittenbogaard publishes Bible studies, short stories and poetry in both English and Dutch. Cross On Me is his first full length novel in English.

Cross On Me was published by Abarim Publications and printed by iUniverse. It is available from online booksellers such as Amazon.com, Borders and Barnes and Noble. Cross On Me can also be read entirely online at http://www.crossonme.com/.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mahon, Menorca

We’re gliding into town through what’s said to be the largest natural harbor in the world. Since Menorca is also a tiny island, I’m forced to conclude that half of it consists of harbor. But what a sight for sore eyes; I feel home at once. Tiny European houses built smack on the shore, which is doable because there are no tides here. The Med feels like a big lake to sailors; no tides, no swell to speak of. But if Al Gore is right and the water level will rise by two meters, we’re in for a dip here in Europe. Unless of course they build some kind of dam across the Gibraltar Straight, with locks like they have in the Panama Canal. And do the same with the Suez Canal. They would have to install a bunch of pumps too, I guess, because then the Med won’t drain naturally into the Atlantic. It’ll take some thinking but hey, they can always come and learn from the Dutch because the Netherlands has been below sea level for centuries. We had the Southern Sea that’s now the Ijsel Lake. Who said it couldn’t be done?

And while we wait to see if Al Gore is right, we can enjoy cute ports such as that of Mahon, the capital of Menorca, which is an island in the Balearic group that also contains Ibiza and Mallorca. These islands have been inhabited since the Neolithic era. There are remnants aplenty; boulders turned upright defying time and leaving the onlookers guessing at the why of them. Then there are traces of the Romans and pretty much every invading force since. We pass buildings on little islets that are unmistakably Napoleonic, but quickly the coast is dappled with splendid waterfront villas, all with private beaches and docks and boat houses. Downtown, where we end up, a boulevard filled with restaurants and bars curves along the water’s edge. Yachts of all sizes are tied up in rows, and there’s even a blue fisher boat from Barendrecht, a Dutch city close to where I was born.

Menorca’s claim to fame is the invention of salsa mahonesa, known in the rest of the world as mayonnaise.

A bastion from the Napoleonic era in the harbor of Mahon, Menorca

The Barendrecht, making Mahon, Menorca look like a toy town.
Down town Mahon, Menorca
The boulevard of Mahon, Menorca
Saint Francesc Cathedral, Mahon, Menorca
Waterfront of Mahon, Menorca
Villas in the harbor of Mahon, Menorca
Villas in the harbor of Mahon, Menorca

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cartagena, Spain

We arrive when it’s still dark but as soon as the sun is up and I tear away from the goings on, the town of Cartagena fills me with memories of grandiose plans and romance. Row after row of yachts of all sizes bob in the marina. Buildings from every age thrust up from the sandy soil, and there is a handsome promenade to separate the two.

“What I want,” I tell Draga, who is always interested to hear what I want, “is to drive the entire southern coast line of Europe, in a camper.”
“We’re buying a camper now, hm?” she says with a tone of gentle forgiveness in her voice. “Is that before or after you build our house in Belgrade, with a library for you to work in and with a tower that overlooks the Danube? Coffee and donuts on the balcony? To the theater twice a week?”
“You’re forgetting the indoor swimming pool and the sauna,” I say. I have the tendency to loose grip on monetary reality after three months of hard work, 12 hours per day with barely any recreation. I also want a live-in kitchen and a yard to run around in.

Then we stare out over the town, imagining having the time to even see each other for longer than a coffee break once or twice a day. We’re both exhausted. We’re losing weight like drunk dromedaries. “I just want to be with you in a tiny little space and hold you,” she says while my eyes follow the road that meanders along the coast and up the hills, past an ancient looking building and across the horizon. A camper it is then, I hear myself say. Draga holds me closer for a brief moment. Then she has to go.
Cartagena, Spain

Cartagena, Spain

Cartagena, Spain
Cartagena, Spain

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gibraltar Straight

It’s always a milestone in any journey: crossing Gibraltar Straight. We look forward to it for weeks and then it’s over in an hour or two. But thank God we’re off the Atlantic. From a sailor’s point of view, the Mediterranean really is a big lake; there are hardly any tides and hardly any swell. Sailing the Mediterranean is a walk in the park, so to speak.

The weather is always a surprise in Gibraltar Straight (as it is anywhere else, I suppose). Sometimes gales get bottlenecked to full fledged storms and passing the straight is like passing a cactus. Sometimes it’s spectacularly clear and you can count the leaves on the trees on either side. Once I’ve seen a wind-still day produce strange whipped-cream globs of clouds just sitting on the water, for us to circumvent.

Today conditions are boring but not very trying. Rain and fog keeps the Rock of Gibraltar from our sight. We pass along the African Coast, along with countless other ships, safely separated in a convoy going west and one going east. And as we stand and stare and each other, we notice the dorsal fins and arched backs of a large herd of dolphins moving gracefully between us out the Mediterranean and onto the Atlantic.

A container ship in the Gibraltar Straight
Dolphins in the Gibraltar Straight

Monday, April 11, 2011

Casablanca, Morocco

A couple of tired-eying line guys tie us up in the congested cargo port of Casablanca.
“Where’s Rick’s?” we yell, visibly making the line guys even more tired. We’re not the first foreign fools to refer to the 1942 movie, and we’re also not the first to forget that Casablanca existed long before Humphrey Bogart, and has existed long since.

In 2004 a brave woman from Oregon named Kathy Kriger moved to Casablanca and opened the only Rick’s Café in town. I’m sure it attracts many a foolish foreigner who come from afar to sing along with Sam. Well, if Kathy can stand it, so can they, or something like that.

We’re only here for a day; we’ll leave in the late afternoon. The town curves around the port like a cupped hand. An impressive mosque stands on the edge and I’d love to go see it. Unfortunately there’s no time. I’d also love to go see the 1930 Sacre Coeur Cathedral or the more recently built Notre Dame de Lourdes; two massive churches smack in the middle of Islamic Morocco.

Maybe some other time. Maybe not…
An impressive mosque close to the port of Casablanca, Morocco

Casablanca, Morocco
Casablanca, Morocco

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Agadir, Morocco

We’re in Agadir, Morocco, for only half a day. Ahead lies the town in the blistering heat; a scorching dessert wind comes pelting over the mountains, carrying sand that scrapes the paint off the bulkheads and settles in corners and blows in through every gap or inlet.

To our port side, the pretty blue ship Taurus J is loading containers. Behind us lies a ship from Lima with a curious green hull. Half way the morning the cute little cruise ship we saw yesterday in Arrecife comes floating in. I recognize it now: it’s the Corinthian II. She was also with us in Senegal.

As we get ready to depart, the wind increases to a whopping gale force 8 and all brace for a rough ride to Casablanca. I can’t wait to see the lush green shores of Northern Europe, but first we need to cut through Gibraltar Strait and spend a month in the Mediterranean. After that we go back across the Atlantic. Northern Europe we won’t see for a while.

Agadir, Morocco
Agadir, Morocco

The mini cruise ship Corinthian II; our companion for the last few days
Cargo ship Taurus J  loading containers in Agadir, Morocco
Another cargo ship in the port of Agadir, Morocco

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Arrecife, Lanzarote - Canary Islands

It’s hard to top an evening like last night’s, or to come down to earth after it for that matter. The Freon leak was quickly found and soldered shut again, long before any provisions would have started to melt. The storekeeper was assuaged and Ludin was instructed to stay away from the galley for a while, which would be best for everyone.

Arrecife, the capital of Lanzarote, the northernmost Canary Island, promises quiet delight and restful resorts, and even boasts a tourism industry based on tranquility. To us, Arrecife is a hardy sprinkle of white condos far out in the distance but still it manages to look fantastically boring. The hills that surround it are barren, and so are the plains and pretty much the whole island. Not a single tree catches the eye.

Still, it must have some allure. There’s a monstrously large cruise ship tied up behind us, and up front is a cute little cruise ship. At some point during the day, a third huge cruise ship docks. There’s no telling what might be out there but thousands were here to see it.

Cruise ship Fantasia in Arrecife
A cute little cruise ship off our bow
The white town of Arrecife

A third cruise ship docks, one owned by Island Cruises

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Iglesia de la Concepcion in Santa Cruz, Tenerife - Canary Islands

By the dry bed of the Barranco de los Santos and crouched amidst high rises and private homes stacked like domino stones, lays the pretty, horizontal cathedral Iglesia de la Concepcion; its slender and square belfry like a bastion overlooking the sea.

The indented chapels could use a lick of paint on the outside but on the inside the church is well kept, spacey and utterly hospitable. When Draga and I enter we find the congregation conducting a worship service. We scoot through the isles and sit down somewhere and listen to a friendly Father deliver his sermon. I have no idea what he’s saying but around me the world stands still and becomes reverent, and I look at the statues, the paintings and the impressive arches that hold up the ceiling.

I’m holding Draga’s hand. I want her to know that I understand that she belongs to a world that’s not made from steel and peeling paint, and that needs to be perpetually maintained at the price of human lives. She belongs to an eternity that, although it must be misunderstood by the merits of its nature, can be wholly enjoyed in silence and surrender.

After the service the congregation shuffles out and lingers by the entrance, chatting and laughing. I remain inside and take pictures of the statues (with flash because the lights go out as soon as the door opens). When we finally also exit, we walk quietly around the church. Near the belfry we find a plaque that says rather esoterically:

“Although it was built very slowly (XVIth - XVIIIth century) the temple presents a great unity of style. The first edifice, that today corresponds to the first part of the central nave, was a little, rectangular ground-plan church. Along the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries other naves were added to it, changing the temple to the present church of five naves, transept with cupola and isle chapels. 

The tile roofs with two and four slopes corresponds in the inside with the traditional Mudejar coffered ceilings. The walls are made with rubblework being the hewn stone only used in the corners of the edifice, in the tower and on the main facade on which a dark basalt is used. Outside the Canarian wooden balconies stand out, being considered a unique example of the architecture of the islands.”

Whatever cultural significance this church may have for the Canarians, to us it was a brief symbol of safety, of being part of something that must evolve like all other things, but which was based on something eternal that will never go away. Draga and I are part of each other. Today we were part of the congregation of the Church of the Conception in Santa Cruz, Tenerife. We are part of the much larger Body of Christ, equally unfathomable and ultimate more mysterious and eternal. Standing hand in hand in front of this cathedral, to which we will probably never return, we realized that we were part of the great union of heaven and earth; a marriage that can never be described in any human language of logical system, but which defines us at large and at every tiny detail; from the purpose of our lives up to the level of everyday’s most quiet need.

Iglesia de la Concepcion in Santa Cruz, Tenerife – Canary Islands

Could use a lick of paint
Staring over the heads of the congregation to the impressive Marian altar piece

Detail of the Marian altar piece of Iglesia de la Concepcion in Santa Cruz, Tenerife
Arches hold up the ceiling - Iglesia de la Concepcion in Santa Cruz, Tenerife
Mary and Jesus, probably
The baptism of Jesus; stained glass window of Iglesia de la Concepcion in Santa Cruz, Tenerife
Veronica - Iglesia de la Concepcion in Santa Cruz, Tenerife
After the service the congregation lingers
Iglesia de la Concepcion in Santa Cruz, Tenerife - Canary Islands

The Christless cross, unusual for Catholic churches but not in Santa Cruz,
which city symbol is the Christless cross.
(To the right, that's Draga, by the way... )

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Santa Cruz, Tenerife - Shore leave per Captain's orders

He called me into his office, the captain, which usually means you’re fired. He wasn’t going to fire me, he said immediately when I entered, trying to remember my latest and gravest infractions. But he wanted to know why my work-and-rest hours list looked like a Dalmatian. It’s because stuff falls apart, I explained. Well, he assured rather loudly, stuff won’t be falling apart tonight because you and that Draga of yours are going out!

Rounding up that Draga of mine and convincing her that we had to go ashore per Captain’s orders took a while, but at 1900 sharp we marched off, tasting free air for the first time in weeks.

Of course we veered towards the old church called Iglesia de la Concepcion, where we joined a worship service. Then we crossed a noisy shopping street where Draga bought me 18 pair of Nike socks, vowing she would throw my old ones out (But they’re only three years old, I tried. I bought them in Ketchikan! They’re souvenirs!). We turned corners and crossed squares and finally we ended up in the gentle care of senior Julian at his fine eatery called Dorada, had ham and cheese and pizza and grilled fish, and babbled nose to nose about living in a little house somewhere, with a dog and a cat and plants on the window sills. No pagers, no machines that fall apart in the middle of the night.

Rosy and content we headed back to the ship and what I had tried not to dread the whole evening became reality in the cheerful face of Ludin, smiling at me from the top of the gangway.
“No more Freon inside fridges. Storekeeper very angry.”
“What have you done so far?”
“I put more Freon.”
“How much…?”
“Only one bottle.”
“You put fifty-seven kilo of R22 in a seventeen-kilo system?”
“Yes, chiep. Shall I put more?”
“No Ludin, let’s continue tomorrow morning,” I say stepping by him as I follow my Draga down the corridor, to our little house with a dog and a cat and flowering plants on all the window sills.

A pleasant pedestrian street in Santa Cruz, Tenerife
Same street, but now viewing in the direction of the Church of the Conception.
From where we sat at Julian’s restaurant Dorada
Julian, a bueno hombre who works at Dorada restaurant
Four cruise ships in a row in the port of Santa Cruz, Tenerife
Quaint enclaves of houses built on the hill slants, Santa Cruz, Tenerife

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dakar, Senegal - a huge city in the middle of nowhere

As we pull into the sandy haze, and the city of Dakar, Senegal emerges, the first thought that crosses my mind is: My goodness, who on earth put this here?

We’re in the Sahara, geographically spoken, but Dakar is a handsome metropolis with high rises galore and the obvious regalia of bustling international trading grounds. We’re not the only ones here; the anchorage is crammed with ships waiting to be hailed in. We see lot after lot of brand new cars, containers, steel in massive rolls. There’s even a cruise ship tied up: the Corinthian II.

Directly off the coast lies a pretty island. The buildings are old and majestic. Only later we learn that this is a place of atrocity and horror. Ile de Goree was once a holding house for slaves. While the owner and his family dined upstairs, up to 200 people were kept in tiny cells down below. Guards could have an unchecked go at whatever poor sap was taken there, along with his wife and children. It’s a museum now. Fortunately for all of us, there’s no time to go ashore. Ludin’s tender sensibilities won’t take another blow, I'm sure.

Dakar, Senegal in the sandy haze
Sunrise over a ship at the anchorage of Dakar, Senegal
Ile de Goree, off the coast of Dakar, Senegal
Dakar, Senegal
Dakar, Senegal
Dakar, Senegal
The Corinthian II docked in Dakar, Senegal
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